Evanston, Illinois – a city just north of Chicago – is the first city in the country that has created a way to fund reparations to compensate Black Americans.
The city council says reparations are an effort to right a wrong and to help make up for the loss of generational wealth due to inequality and an oppressed system.
City leaders plan to distribute at least $10 million in tax dollars over the next decade – with $25,000 payments eligible to residents as soon as this spring, ABC News reports.
The program is being funded by a 3% tax on newly legal recreational marijuana sales.
“It’s the most appropriate use for that sales tax,” 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons told ABC. “In our city, 70% of the marijuana arrests were in the Black community. And we are 16% of the community. All studies show that Blacks and white [people] consume cannabis at the same rate.”
And beyond the criminal justice system, inequality can be witnessed in housing.
Records and documents show that Black residents were pushed into an area that became the 5th Ward, deliberately segregating them from white families and sought-after property.
Historians told ABC that the 5thward was known to have smaller homes, and at times, had no electricity, water, or a sewer system.
“The only option to buy in Evanston was basically in the 5th Ward,” said local historian Dino Robinson, who is the founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center. “Banks in Evanston would not loan to Black families for housing [and] the real estate agencies would not show you anything other than the 5th Ward.”
U.S. Census data show White people living in Evanston today are making double the income, and their homes are double the value of their Black counterparts.
Simmons said the $25,000 reparations benefit for housing is meant to combat “a lack of affordability, lack of access to living-wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place.”