A (very) brief history of Evanston's reparations initiative and how white Evanston residents can support it (ie: contribute financially!)
Short story: white Evanston residents can and should contribute to the brand new Evanston Reparations Community Fund held by the Evanston Community Foundation. (scroll down to Evanston Reparations Community Fund).
Evanston's first Town Hall meeting to celebrate the passage of the City's reparations resolution--the first municipal reparations initiative in the country--took place on December 11, 2019, a whole L-O-N-G year ago, a year during which racial disparities throughout the country, particularly in policing and brutality, health, and income, have been starkly highlighted.
The resolution was introduced to City Council by 5th ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons and passed 8-1 on November 25.
Earlier, last July, Evanston's Equity and Empowerment Commission convened community members to gather public input, summarized those recommendations in a report to the City Council, and a subcommittee was created to begin the planning process.
Based on community input, Evanston's local initiative is to help repair systemic discrimination including:
Exclusionary housing policies
-- Exclusionary Zoning; and
-- Relocation of Black homes;
Divestment from Black communities, such as the closing of Foster School, Community Hospital, the Emerson YMCA, and the "Social Hygiene Clinic."
With these and other policies and practices, the City segregated Black families into an area that became undervalued and underserved.
Today, there is a $46,000 wealth gap between the average Black and white family in Evanston and a 13-year difference in life expectancy.
Evanston's Black population, which accounted for 22 percent of residents in 2000, is down to 16% (12,000 out of 75,000 residents).
On January 1, 2020, the sale of recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois and the subcommittee identified that a three percent tax on weed sales would be an appropriate way to collect funds for reparations.
Data from the Evanston Police Department showed that 71 percent of weed-related arrests were in the Black community, which, again, is just 16 percent of Evanston's population. This disparity is shocking because studies have shown that white and Black people use weed at the same rate. The first $10 million in weed sales tax will go into the fund.
The first phase toward repair, now a draft proposal, would be to provide Black residents $25,000 toward the opportunity for home ownership or sustaining home ownership. To qualify, residents seeking reparations from the city would need to show they lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and suffered housing discrimination by the city during that period. Their direct descendants would also qualify for the money.
The draft proposal will be discussed at the next City Council meeting this Monday, December 14.
The subcommittee meets again on Friday, December 18.
While reparations is first and foremost a government responsibility to begin to repair past and present systemic racism (municipal, state, and federal), white Evanston residents must acknowledge the benefits we enjoy by choosing to live in Evanston, which we tout as a diverse and progressive city but which has always been unequal and highly segregated. We too must personally contribute to repair.
Start learning, keep learning, and get involved
Read: Ta-Nehisi Coates' Atlantic article, "The Case for Reparations."
Subscribe: to Evanston reparations subcommittee updates.
Contribute: to the reparations fund (scroll down to Evanston Reparations Community Fund)
Sign up: to help reach out to Evanston's white community.
Watch last year's historic Town Hall meeting!