Every year in January, for the past three years, I've mounted a fundraiser for Evanston reparations through the Evanston Reparations Community Fund held by the Evanston Community Foundation.
Last year we raised $20,000 in just under a week. This year, the goal is $50,000.
I encourage every white and non-Black Evanston resident to contribute here.
Last Sunday, I talked to Tom Mulhern, who has lived in Evanston for 25 years, about why he contributes to Evanston's reparations initiative through the Evanston Community Reparations Fund, which is held by the Evanston Community Foundation and administered by the Reparations Stakeholders Authority of Evanston.
You can watch and read our conversation below.
Then, please contribute as well.
Mark your contributions with "MLK" or my name, so that I can get in touch.
My conversation with Tom Mulhern
Nina/DE: Why do you believe that all white Evanston residents, white-led organizations, and predominantly white faith-based organizations should support reparations in Evanston?
And why do you think that that the responsibility goes above and beyond the obligation of the municipal government?
Tom Mulhern: To me it's kind of simple.
There's a collective debt owed and it needs to be repaid. The way that the United States was put together, capital and value and prestige and comfort have accumulated unequally along caste lines for centuries. In the United States that's wrapped up in our warped conceptions of race and racial attitudes across the board. In particular, racial attitudes toward the the descendants of the people we enslaved for at least half of those centuries.
So it's a real debt with real consequences to opportunity and equality and power. And I just don't think, at the end of the day, you can repay that debt with lip service and nice words.
If you aren't willing to acknowledge and pay your share of that debt, then all the nice words that you could speak are just empty. They're kind of phony and counterproductive.
I guess that answer is not just about the responsibility of the so-called white people in Evanston; that answer would be about the entire United States, and maybe more broadly than that.
As with anything fundamental, whether that's education, or safety, or health, you have to act first with the people nearest you. I don't think that acting locally gets in the way of acting globally or vice versa.
I think the City's reparations initiative is very important. It's historic. It's an act of leadership. It is a way of our civic leaders across a pretty broad spectrum saying this is needed.
At the same time, it's not nearly sufficient, and how could it be sufficient?
But I think the City did specific harms of a specific type with specific impacts that were documented clearly.
The rest of us families and individuals and companies did other harms and benefited from harms done by other people in Evanston. And those harms also need to be acknowledged and repaired -- and they should be repaired in ways that feel right and just to the people who were harmed or who inherited that harm.
That's why I'm glad locally there is also the Reparation Stakeholder Authority [of Evanston] that's emerged, and that the state and national campaigns continue as well.
The thing that persuaded me and triggered the first contribution I made to the effort directly from my bank account was a friend of mine who said, 'You know, America keeps kicking this can.' It was during the summer of 2020. 'Can we keep kicking it down the road? We don't fix it. We don't do anything. And we retreated from the things we started to do -- things like Reconstruction or the war on poverty -- and then we back away from them because they're uncomfortable, or difficult, or they move someone's cheese just a little too far.'
I was thinking, well, why DO we keep keep kicking that can down the road? And how do you stop kicking a can down the road? And I think it just dawned on me that the way you do that, you just ... act. And it may be imperfect, but it's just ... time.
And you know, if not now, when. And if not me, who? It's a moral tax that's owed.
Click here to watch my interview from last Monday with Pastor Michael Nabors and
Rabbi Andrea London.
If you'd like to share why you contribute and support Evanston's reparations initiative, record a video on your phone and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. More interviews coming soon.