The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, is set to become the first city in the country to fund reparations for Black residents victimized by historic discrimination after approving a plan to distribute $10 million over the next decade. The first phase of the plan, which is set for a vote tomorrow, would distribute $400,000 to Black residents who themselves suffered or are descended from the victims of housing discrimination due to city policies. Evanston’s reparations plan places it at the forefront of a growing movement of communities looking to atone for historic anti-Black discrimination in housing, including Washington, D.C., and nearby Chicago.
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The reparations are targeted at victims of housing discrimination because, according to the city’s website, “reparations, and any process for restorative relief, must connect between the harm imposed and the City. The strongest case for reparations by the City of Evanston is in the area of housing, where there is sufficient evidence showing the City’s part in housing discrimination as a result of early City zoning ordinances in place between 1919 and 1969 when the City banned housing discrimination.” Like most cities, Evanston has a history of discriminatory housing practices that prevented integration and inhibited Black households from accumulating wealth through homeownership.
“Reparations is the most appropriate legislative response to the historic practices and the contemporary conditions of the Black community. And though many anti-Black policies have been outlawed, many remain embedded in policy, including zoning and other government practices” said City Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 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 are due but the heart to advance it.”
Robin Rue Simmons is a strategist, civic entrepreneur, and alderman of Evanston’s 5th Ward. Ald. Rue Simmons began her career 22 years ago when she launched her first business as a real estate broker. Troubled by the wealth disparities and concentrated poverty in urban communities, she wanted to help young adults build wealth early through homeownership. Over the course of her entrepreneurial career, she has launched and operated multiple businesses, including a bookstore that offered free afterschool programming and a construction firm that employed dozens of minority skilled tradespeople, and has developed dozens of affordable homes funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.