In an attempt to address its legacy of racial discrimination, Evanston, Ill., has selected its first 16 residents to recieve $25,000 each in reparations as compensation, CBS News reports. The development comes as other states and municipalities begin to make decisions to study the possibility of reparations for discrimination and chattel slavery.
In the case of Evanston, which sits about 30 minutes north of Chicago, funds can only be spent on housing, including down payments for home purchases, mortgage assistance or home repairs.
Ramona Burton, one of the 16 residents, used part of her payment to replace windows in her home. She told CBS News that the amount of money distributed is a first step in the right direction.
"It's a start, but I don't think it's enough for all minorities have been put through," she said, adding, "It's kind... an apology or admitting we've been wronged in the past. So it doesn't wipe away what my ancestors had to go through. But, you know, it doesn't hurt."
In March 2021, the Evanston City Council approved the first-in-the-nation program in an 8-1 vote. They planned to fund the payments through community donations and revenue from a 3 percent tax totaling some $10 million.
Evanston’s Reparations Committee in January approved 122 applicants who qualified as “ancestors” for the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program. Committee members selected the first 16 through a lottery drawing. To be an eligible ancestor, residents must be a Black person who resided in Evanston between 1919 and 1969.
Supporters of the program say that Blacks have been the victims of system discrimination that disadvantaged them in many ways, including housing, education, and financial well-being. The legacy continues to cause unfair hardships.
"Black Americans are concentrated at the bottom of the income and wealth distributions in the U.S. and so, as a group, have not shared equally in these gains in the economy in the past 30 or 40 years," economist Ellora Derenoncourt told CBS News.
Meanwhile, California leads the state-level reparations movement. In 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted legislation that created a two-year reparations task force to study the institution of slavery and its harms and to educate the public about its findings.
In March, the task force considered the thorny issue of reparations eligibility for the state’s Black residents. The members voted 5-4 to limit compensation for slavery to the descendants of free and enslaved Black people living in the United States in the 19th century.
Three months later, the task force released a document that makes the case for an official state government apology and restitution for African Americans. The report details discriminatory policies and practices the descendants of enslaved people suffered that continue to impact them today.