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Illinois city issues 25K in housing-based reparations

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Illinois city issues 25K in housing-based reparations
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Per CBS News, the city of Evanston, Illinois chose 16 residents to receive $25,000 each in reparations in a first-in-the-nation program to address harms from slavery to discriminatory housing policies.

The money from the fund, which was created back in 2019, is only allotted for a home down payment, mortgages or repairing homes in an effort to increase minority property value.

Reparations are being discussed now like never before.

Ramona Burton is one of the eligible residents of Evanston picked in a lottery to receive the funds. She said,”it’s a start, but I don’t think it’s enough for all minorities have been put through,” Burton told CBS News.

Burton used some of her grant to replace her windows — but said the repairs are largely emotional.

Robin Rue Simmons championed reparations in Evanston. She now runs First Repair, helping other communities do the same. “The United States has harmed the Black community for 403 years. Eras of terror and harm. And so repair is necessary. Equity has not been enough,” she said.

States like California are deciding how to address its own role in historically racial discrimination.

Economist Ellora Derenoncourt, one of the authors of the study “Wealth of Two Nations” told CBS News without change, the gap will grow wider.

“Black Americans are concentrated at the bottom of the income and wealth distributions in the U.S. and so, as a group, have not shared equally in these gains in the economy in the past 30 or 40 years,” she said.

As one side of our society attempts to reckon the past, the other side looks to ignore Black history in America altogether. Reparations, if provided on a national scale, would turn the tide in not only the conversation but tangibly provide Black folks with a leg up for the very first time in American history.

Illinois doesn’t go far enough with strings-attached $25,000

If the idea is to make people whole, a $25,000 check for home repairs, mortgages and down payments will again miss the mark. With the long term strategy of encouraging home ownership which will then turn into wealth for their families, the plan falls short of addressing the human cost of systemic discrimination.

Discrimination is not solely based in housing, policing, and other institutions which have sought to displace and disrupt Black life in America. Reparations distributed by the same city which oversaw the widening wealth gap the entire time with strings attached hardly feels like the liberation we celebrated on Juneteenth. If Evanston is going to give $25,000 for their role, the recipients should have the right to use the funds however they choose.

Who’s to say there isn’t a new business one of these sixteen people would like to start, file a patent, invest the money, or perhaps they need a new car? Assigning someone money to spend in a specific manner reeks of the same oversight that put those Illinois residents in position to receive reparations in the first place. Until funds are distributed without the government looking over our shoulder every time we swipe a card, actual reparations will continue to allude Black folks in Evanston.

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