OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
No good deed goes unpunished. That is the lesson the “woke” town of Evanston, Illinois has earned with its plan to give reparations to black residents.
In March it passed a reparations plan, believed to be the first town to do so in the nation, but local residents have fought back saying that they are not being given enough in the deal, The Guardian reported.
“There’s still so much misinformation or lack of information that Black residents here in Evanston still don’t understand what this program is. And there are plenty of Black residents that still believe that they’re going to be getting direct cash payments, because that’s how the reparations program was framed when it was first introduced in 2019,” Sebastian Nalls, one of the founders of Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations group and a black resident of Evanston.
The Evanston plan would provide housing grants to qualified Evanston residents using funds from cannabis sales. Since Evanston currently has $400,000 in its Restorative Housing Program fund, if each applicant received the maximum $25,000 grant amount, only 16 families or individuals would be receiving a check in late 2021. For those who do receive the money, $25,000 makes a small dent in the cost of buying a house in Evanston, where the average house sells for about $300,000. Later this summer, applications for the housing grants will open to the city’s Black residents. The city intends to select recipients from the applicant pool through a random lottery.
How this all unfolded in Evanston could also set the tone for what may happen at a national level.
The debate over what form reparations should take – and who would benefit – has plagued conversations about compensation for formerly descendants of enslaved people across the US. Nationally, the late US representative John Conyers Jr worked to pass a reparations bill through Congress for more than 30 years. In April the House judiciary committee passed HR 40, introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
Supporters now wait for the bill to be placed on the legislative calendar by the speaker of the House and House majority leader for a full vote. If passed, the legislation would be the first step in making national reparations a reality.
Evanston has the woke trifecta. Reparations, virtue signaling and the use of marijuana to get it done, but it was not woke enough for some.
In March A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr., who authored the book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” penned an op-ed in the Washington Post denouncing the program.
They called it “a good step for the city to take, but let’s be clear: This is a housing voucher program, not reparations — and calling it that does more harm than good.”
“The cause of justice demands proprietariness about the meaning of “reparations,” and we object to these kinds of piecemeal and misleading labels. True reparations only can come from a full-scale program of acknowledgment, redress and closure for a grievous injustice,” they said.
The pair outlined two conditions they believe should be met before any reparations program takes effect.
“Eligible recipients must have at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States. These are the individuals who bear the burden of the cumulative intergenerational effects of all three periods of racial atrocities. Recipients also must show that they self-identified as Black, Negro or an equivalent designation on an official document for at least 12 years before a reparations program was set in motion,” they said.
But they noted, the program would have to close what they call the “Black-White wealth gap,” it must include direct cash payments to the descendants of slaves and it must be paid for the federal government.
Why would it have to be paid for by the federal government? As they note, the federal government paid $5 trillion for COVID relief and they believe a true reparations program would cost a whopping $14 trillion.
Imagine that kind of money. Congress is currently grappling with two bills, one for infrastructure and one for reconciliation, that would cost near $5 trillion combined.
It is tough to imagine $14 trillion passing even if Congress was 100 percent Democrat.