Evanston Is an Equity Project, Not Reparations

A $25,000 housing grant is a good step but doesn’t right the wrong of slavery and economic injustice

Photo: Todd Kent/Unsplash

Evanston, Illinois, approved to use a small portion of its cannabis taxes for an equity initiative to address housing inequities from redlining. The city calls it reparations. While this is a good step in the right direction and a great model to study, this isn’t reparations.

According to a Black Star News op-ed by A. Kirsten Mullen and William Darity:

This is a housing plan dressed up as a reparations plan….The term reparations [should] be reserved for a comprehensive policy of redress for black American descendants of persons enslaved in the United States. Specifically, black reparations must refer to a project that eliminates the nation’s staggering racial wealth gap. Indeed, true reparations must incorporate four essential elements.

Mullen and Darity are the authors of From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, and they explain — in their book and in the op-ed — the four elements that are required for effective reparation:

  1. Identifying African Americans born in the United States and descendants of Africans who were brought here and were enslaved.
  2. “Require the plan to erase the black-white difference in wealth by building black assets to a level comparable to those held by whites.”
  3. “True reparations require direct payments to eligible recipients.”
  4. “The federal government is the culpable party and must pay the debt.”

Based on these guidelines, Evanston should stop calling its plan reparations. As a matter of fact, it’s more of an economic stimulus package and social experiment.

Once again, the Evanston experiment is a good step in the right direction, but I agree with the op-ed’s authors, who state that the move “hijacks true reparations.” True reparations address the systemic causes and issues that include housing disparities but don’t end there. Reparations are not a grant approved by a group dictating what the funds can or should be used for.

Providing $25,000 for a housing grant without giving everyone a living wage; ending race and gender-based discrimination in income, education, and health care; and a deadly and biased criminal justice system falls short and bigger than Evanston. The grant-only approach is an insult to the descendants who helped make this country and their White descendants rich and have advantages and privileges that Black people continue to be denied.

I’m not an expert, but I believe that reparation is a global issue and that every country that participated in slavery should pay into a global fund, and it should be distributed to their respective countries. Secondly, I don’t think the countries that enslaved our ancestors should define reparations, how much is needed, or who should get it. That should be determined by an independent, nonpolitical group in each country.

I hope more states and local governments develop equity projects using the funds from cannabis taxes while the country continues to examine reparations.

Thank you for reading.

For more information about the Evanston experiment and reparations:

Writer, Co-founder of Writers and Editors of Color #WEOC, Bylines in Zora, Momentum, An Injustice!, POM, Illumination, The Pink, and Better Marketing

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