Few Have Seen Any Cash

When Evanston, Ill., decided to establish its own cash reparations program for Black Americans in 2021, some in the reparations movement were optimistic. Would other cities follow Evanston’s suit? Could this spark a major push for federal reparations?

Well, veteran reparations activist Williams Darity panned the effort, saying local reparations programs were not the answer. He insisted that federal cash reparations was the only true reparations because only the federal government could afford to pay out what is due to Black Americans who have ancestors who were slaves.

On March 22, 2021, the City Council voted 8-1 to pay a total of $400,000 to eligible Black households, NBC News reported. Under the program, each household that qualifies will receive $25,000 to fund home repairs or assist with down payments on property.

And it seems that Darity predicted right. Although Evanston, a Chicago suburb of 78,000 people, has planned to dole out $20 million, very few Black locals have received reparations funds. Evanston has only spent only $400,000 and helped 16 people.

Some recipients have used their $25,000 grant to help pay down mortgages.

“All of these piecemeal local, state and private efforts that people are calling reparations are just a detour,” said Duke University professor and longtime reparations advocate William Darity, according to The Post.

Prof. Darity told AndScape, that the federal government is behind the inequality and harm done to Black people and thus the federal government alone should be responsible for the repair.

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“The federal government is responsible for those acts because it never undertook any effort to punish the private citizens operating singly or in a mob, and in some instances, the federal government actually had a complicit role,” he said. “In many instances, the federal government played a direct or indirect role in supporting the terrorist actions. So it strikes me that ultimately it’s the federal government that has to bear the responsibility for compensating for all of these harms associated with the way white supremacy has been executed in the United States.”

Initially, about 400 Black Evanston residents were set to benefit from the $25,000 housing voucher program, which local officials called the first phase of the Evanston Reparations Committee initiatives, TheGrio reported.

Evanston’s reparations movement took off in June 2019 after the Illinois legislature approved marijuana use for recreational purposes. The Evanston City Council committed the first $10 million in cannabis tax revenue it would receive to the reparations effort, The Washington Post reported. From there, the reparations program expanded into the Evanston Restorative Housing Program to address its decades-long housing discrimination rather than slavery reparations.

In Evanston, the median white household income is $108,000, nearly double that of Black households, at $55,000. 

There are still 106 people on the waiting list and hundreds more have signed up for the reparations program.

At least five approved people have died before their promised reparations could be dispersed, The Washington Post reported.

Evanston’s local historian Morris “Dino” Robinson Jr., who co-authored a city-commissioned study on housing practices, poses for a portrait in Shorefront Legacy Center in Evanston, Ill., April 9, 2021. The Chicago suburb is preparing to pay reparations in the form of housing grants to Black residents who experienced housing discrimination. “It’s a lot, a lot of work, and be prepared for pulling back old wounds, telling truth, gaining the trust,” Robinson said. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar)

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