Chicago suburb’s plan to pay Black residents reparations could be a national model

EVANSTON, Ill. (Reuters) – Decades ago, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Cordelia Clark ran a restaurant out of her kitchen and parked cabs for her taxi company in her backyard because Black residents were effectively barred from owning or renting storefronts in town.

Now Evanston is poised to become the first U.S. city to offer reparation money to Black residents whose families suffered lasting damage from decades of discriminatory practices.

“It’s about time that something has come from the hard work of African Americans in this city, proving that they should be treated as anyone else,” said Clark’s great-granddaughter, Delois Robinson, 58.

Evanston’s initial approach to reparations is narrow and targeted. The city council, which has already committed $10 million over a decade to the effort, will vote on Monday to begin with a $400,000 round of payments. The first phase will provide $25,000 to a small number of eligible Black residents for home repairs, down payments or mortgage payments in a nod toward historically racist housing policies.

The program could become a model for other cities and states grappling with whether to pursue their own reparations programs. The burgeoning national movement has gained traction amid a reckoning on racial inequity following the police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans last year.

In Congress, a bill that would establish a national reparations commission to study the issue has drawn around 170 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, all Democrats. President Joe Biden has not endorsed the legislation but says he supports a study. Advocates plan to lobby the White House for executive action if the bill, as expected, fails to pass a divided Senate.

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