Initially an amount of
$400,000 has been earmarked for the program in which amounts
of up to $25,000 will be distributed to eligible individuals
– part of eligibility requirements would be proving
residency in Evanston for a specified length of time.
Eventually the amount of funds that will go into the program
is expected to exceed $10 million.
Simmons determined through
her research that the racial wealth gap was the critical
component of a lack of equity and inclusion, so she reached
out to the National African-American Reparations Commission
(NAARC) convener and Institute of the Black World 21st
Century (IBW) President Ron Daniels to help the city develop
the plan. The key to the plan – and therefore to narrow the
wealth gap – was to assist Black families in their quest for
The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances put the
net wealth of the average White family at $171,000 in 2016
and $17,150 for a Black family.
The Evanston City Council
has not been met with overall approval in the Black
community. A group called Evanston Rejects Racist
Reparations (E3R) argues that the plan does not go nearly
far enough since the funds appropriated will only be
disbursed to a handful of the more than 12,000 African
American Evanston residents.
One of the other key
objections to the plan is tagging the payments to home
ownership. Some opponents of the plan say that Black
recipients should not be told how to spend their reparations
Simmons disagrees with
those assessments citing the time and effort that her groups
has invested in identifying the past history of anti-Black
housing practices in the city – a history that marked the
path for reparations.
Still, Simmons and her
allies acknowledge that mush more should be and will be in
the continuing reparations effort.
Perhaps what is more
important than the small Evanston plan is what it might mean
for the national reparations effort.
Nationally the reparations
effort has been ongoing for decades in Congress – an effort
first launched by Representatives Barbara Jordan of Texas
and John Conyers of Michigan with HR 40 in 1989. Texas Rep.
Sheila Jackson Lee took up the fight introducing HR 40 in
1996 and in every congressional session since then. She is
more optimistic these days since newly inaugurated President
Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris seem to be paying
more attention to the issue of reparations.
The key, say national
experts such as Ron Daniels who has consulted on HR 40 since
the beginning, is not just to look at the institution of
slavery and the government’s reneging on the promise of 40
acres and a mule, but also to consider the impact of Jim
Crow and the wealth gap that was created over the years
HR 40 now has 170
co-sponsors and a Senate companion piece. However, what
remains unsettled among proponents is what the price of
centuries of oppression might be and how to make financial
recompense for that oppression.
After a century of of de
jure and de facto discrimination and housing segregation,
redlining, inability to access small business and housing
loans, suppression of civil rights – well into the 1960s,
and the subsequent inability to right the impact of those
wrongs, reparations seems to making a bit of an impact on
the American consciousness.