Evanston, Illinois became the first city in the United States to enact reparations to qualifying Black residents and descendants of residents. The program, funded by a tax on legalized marijuana, will distribute $25,000 to roughly 15 households in the city. The program aims to distribute $10 million over the course of the next decade.
“Evanston is really sort of an incremental step forward,” said National African American Reparations Commission convener Ron Daniels. “The big picture is really the federal level.”
Daniels told Yahoo Finance, “local reparations” are important, but federal reparations are where the “real dollars are.”
Residents in Evanston, Daniels explained, were “correctly saying” that the money being paid out in the city was “not enough” and they need more.
“When we’re talking about the need for trillions of dollars over X numbers of years, it has to be the federal legislation that ultimately will actually provide the kind of resources to reinvest in communities and create the kind of equity that you referenced earlier,” Daniels said.
A Yahoo Finance calculation estimated that Black Americans descended from slaves were owed more than $17 trillion in reparations.
Evanston was a “milestone” and a “model” for the rest of the country on how reparations could be enacted on a municipal and state level in the country, according to Daniels. Other cities, like Providence, Rhode Island and Asheville, North Carolina are looking at enacting reparations.
“The importance of Evanston is that it is a blueprint,” he said.
But it’s important to note, Daniels explained that “reparations is really not only about a check. It’s about much more than that. So in the future the program in Evanston, Illinois, for example, might do health care. It might do economic development. There can be both direct benefits, but there may be what we call community benefits as well.”
Daniels said that there is “no question” that Evanston’s program was a “huge development” and “it will also give a boost to the effort to do reparations at the national level by way of HR 40.”
A bill to study reparations, HR 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, has languished in Congress since Congressman John Conyers introduced the bill in 1989. Since Democrats took control of the House in 2018, however, it has seen forward momentum. The bill now has nearly 175 sponsors in the house, while a Senate bill, S 40 is approaching 20.
“The president of the United States, Biden, has said he is open to actually signing the bill,” Daniels said, adding that reparations will help change the economy to be more “democratic.”
“It is the principle tool by which that will be accomplished,” he explained. “We’re talking big change here in terms of the debate about how we move forward.”
“America will never, ever be the same again, and for the better, because we will have cleansed racism and structural institutional racism out of our system and created a more equitable system where there’s more social ownership, a less gap between those who are wealthy and those who are less fortunate,” Daniels said. “I’m really optimistic that we’re on the brink of something really wonderful in terms of creating a new America.”
Kristin Myers is a reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.