For centuries, reparations for Black people have been the subject of much debate, and the idea is finally gaining some traction in mainstream politics. In the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests, one city has now voted to start making plans to pay Black residents and their descendants the debt owed to them for many years of forcibly-obtained free labor.
Asheville, North Carolina’s, City Council voted unanimously to provide reparations to benefit its Black residents. The resolution issues an apology on behalf of the city of Asheville for its role in slavery, discrimination and the denial of rights to Black citizens.
Councilwoman Sheneika Smith, one of two Black members of the seven-person City Council, explained to USA Today why reparations remain important in 2020.
“(Slavery) is this institution that serves as the starting point for the building of the strong economic floor for white America, while attempting to keep Blacks subordinate forever to its progress,” Smith said.
Rather than issuing direct payments to Black residents, the city’s resolution involves making investments in areas where those residents face stark disparities.
“The resulting budgetary and programmatic priorities may include but not be limited to increasing minority homeownership and access to other affordable housing, increasing minority business ownership and career opportunities, strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, neighborhood safety and fairness within criminal justice,” the resolution says.
If you’d like to watch the public deliberations surrounding the decision, the July 14 City Council meeting has been posted to the City of Asheville’s YouTube account. The discussion begins around the two-hour, 34-minute mark, and the vote occurs around the four-hour, 10-minute mark.
The plan has already received resounding support on Twitter, including this message from ESPN’s Jay Williams.
I applaud you Asheville, NC. #Reparations
— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) July 17, 2020
Now that the resolution has passed 7-0, the city of Asheville is being tasked with creating a Community Reparations Commission to create an action plan for reallocating resources and creating new programs.
Councilman Keith Young, the council’s other Black member and the resolution’s chief supporter, referred to “hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today” after the bill passed.
“It is simply not enough to remove statutes,” he said. “Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature.”
Model Brooklyn Decker applauded the decision while expressing the hope that other cities will now do the same.
Wow. Wow. Wow. Bravo, Asheville. Maybe more NC communities can follow your lead. https://t.co/L2VHUw0pbq
— Brooklyn Decker (@BrooklynDecker) July 15, 2020
Asheville’s historic move will undoubtedly become a test case and model for reparations supporters all over the country.