The concept of reparations has gained traction in recent years as a starting point for compensating for the racism and discrimination Black Americans have historically experienced and continue to face in society. Now, one Chicago suburb is on the verge of becoming the first in the country to pilot the idea by providing reparations to Black residents funded through a tax on marijuana sales.
The community of Evanston lies on the shores of Lake Michigan, just north of downtown Chicago. The Evanston City Council will vote later this month to approve a measure which would allocate an initial disbursement of about $400,000 for housing needs, and residents will be eligible to apply for a designated $25,000 of this to use towards home improvements or mortgage assistance. In order to qualify, residents must either be or be descended from a Black person who lived in Evanston before 1969 who suffered from discriminatory housing practices by the government and banks.
The housing measure is part of a larger commitment from Evanston made in 2019 to allocate $10 million over the next decade for reparations to compensate its Black residents for generations of racism and discrimination.
Although many direct discriminatory housing policies have been discontinued in Chicago, the legacies of these racist laws continue to be embedded in society. Reparations are one strategy to begin to compensate for both these historic inequalities and the downstream effects of them which persist today.