A suburb of Chicago is setting a precedent for racial equality as it moves forward in becoming the first city in the country to fund reparations for its Black residents — but some residents say it doesn’t go far enough to truly be called reparations.
Evanston, just north of Chicago, voted to approve a groundbreaking measure in 2019 in which the city would financially compensate its Black residents to address the wealth and opportunity gaps they have experienced because of historical racism and discrimination.
Using community donations and revenue from a 3 percent tax collected on the sale of recreational cannabis, the city adopted a reparations fund and pledged to distribute $10 million over 10 years.
Since then, Evanston officials have been putting together a plan to disburse the money, eventually deciding that the first $400,000 will be dedicated to address housing needs.
The City Council is expected to vote March 22.
But as officials prepare to move forward with a vote on the first phase of disbursements, some residents say more work is needed before the measure can be classified as true reparations.
“Reparations is the most appropriate legislative response to the historic practices and the contemporary conditions of the Black community. And although many of the anti-Black policies have been outlawed, many remain embedded in policy, including zoning and other government practices,” said Robin Rue Simmons, an alderman in Evanston’s 5th Ward, who introduced the legislation.
“We are in a time in history where this nation more broadly has not only the will and awareness of why reparations is due, but the heart to advance it,” Simmons said.