Evanston city in Illinois has decided to make amends for years of segregation by paying Black residents $25,000 for housing.
A city in Illinois has decided to make amends for years of segregation by paying Black residents $25,000 for housing. It will be funded by a 3% tax on legal recreational marijuana sales, ABC News reported. The city of Evanston has decided to do so because of a "lack of affordability, lack of access to living-wage careers [in the city] and a lack of sense of place," 5th Ward alderman Robin Rue Simmons said.
The city, located close to Chicago, is the first one to pass the resolution to pay Black Americans for years of generational loss of wealth because of slavery. The project has been spearheaded by Simmons, who traced the city's racist history along with historian Dino Robinson to the late 19th century. The Black residents were subject to what has come to be known as redlining, a subtle way of segregation, and other methods like Jim Crow laws that kept wealth building out of reach for Black Americans. Meanwhile, their labor created wealth for White Americans.
"The one comment I hear most often is, 'I did not know,'" Simmons told ABC News. "'I did not know there was segregation in Evanston.' 'I did not know that your housing mortgage is higher than mine but we have the same income.'"
Illinois City to Distribute $25K in Reparations for Black Residents to Use on Housing https://t.co/0AbGNnV0ap— People (@people) March 3, 2021
When Black neighbors started living in "pockets" around the city, the White residents would mark those areas in red ink on a map, according to Brookings Institute. This was a way to tell mortgage lenders where most of the Black population was living. These areas also became the places where there were lower levels of investments. This practice was known as "redlining."
Later, the Black residents were segregated to what came to be known as the 5th ward. "The only option to buy in Evanston was basically in the 5th Ward," Robinson told ABC News. "Banks in Evanston would not loan to Black families for housing [and] the real estate agencies would not show you anything other than the 5th Ward."
Simmons grew up in the 5th ward and her efforts now are colored by her experience as a child. "Early in my childhood I was invited to have a play date," she recalled. "My White friends never had a play date at my home."
When she went to a White friend's neighborhood, she noticed, "the streets were wider. The trees were taller. The homes were bigger and brighter. As a young child, I recognized that difference."
This story coming out of Evanston, IL is so inspiring. African Americans there will receive up to 25k in reparations. I salute Alderman Robin Rue Simmons for finding the $$ to fund this sort of project. America is still in the business of merging hope and innovation. ✊🏽 https://t.co/7pkKEUjoCF— celeste Where Abundance Resides doaks (@thedoaksgirl) March 5, 2021
"I never felt, in any way, envious," she said. "I never had that feeling like, 'Why isn't my family doing better?' It was obvious that it was the barrier of race that kept us from that."
She believes that the historic acts still hold sway over the residents of Evanston in 2021, and after looking at the data, reparations were the only answer she could come up with. "The historic redlining impacts our community today," she said, per ABC. "That map still is the map of our concentrated Black community, our disinvestment, our inferior infrastructure."
I’ve been invited to participate on a panel discussion focused on structural racism in our housing markets during the #RacismandtheEconomy event series. Register to watch live and hear how we can change these deep inequities on March 1 at 2 p.m. ET: https://t.co/Lhvz4e3z7o pic.twitter.com/q6gKTPlN62— Robin Rue (@RobinSimmons888) March 1, 2021
The payments will be in increments of up to $25,000 per eligible resident to use for housing. The discussion around reparations has been ongoing since 1865, when slavery was abolished in the US. However, it never came to fruition. Now, Evanston has become the first city in almost 170 years since the end of slavery to take a positive step towards the people who helped make America great.
"We anticipate litigation to tie things up with the premise that 'You cannot use tax money that's from the public to benefit a particular group of people,'" Robinson said of the opposition to the city's plan. He countered saying that "the entire Black community historically has paid taxes, but were not guaranteed the same benefits."
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by MoMo Productions (Representational Image)