Reparations are coming to Black residents of Evanston, Illinois. Up to 25K so long as they spend it for Evanston property-related expenses like a home down payment, closing costs, repairs, improvements, or help pay down mortgage principal, interest or late penalties. It’s not a cash payout, but at least it’s something. Like blacks throughout America, Evanston residents were discriminated against and held back from building wealth and creating the American dream for their families. Evanston is one of the first cities to offer its black residents any form of reparations to tackle the legacy of slavery. Kudos to Evanston for creating a systemic initiative to offset its prior injustices.
Evanston’s Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program is potentially a good deal if it allows disenfranchised members of the black community to profit from an economic ecosystem that has deliberately shut them out. The money coming down the pike must circulate in the black community among black businesses, professionals, and tradespeople. At a minimum, reparative justice requires that the black community profit from this initiative for Evanston’s prior wrongdoing.
It’s not enough that a few families will own houses. Black realtors, mortgage brokers, attorneys, accountants, appraisers, insurance agents, electricians, roofers, plumbers, masons, landscapers, contractors, banks, and others disenfranchised from the legacy of slavery should be first in line to profit from this so-called reparations program. After all, this would repair some of the damage from the legacy of slavery.
The deal limits the aggrieved parties to spend the money on property in the city of Evanston. This measure is a move to give black families equal livability to the average white in Evanston. One must consider the average cost of a decent home in Evanston. This new initiative might drive up the cost of real estate in Evanston. Giving black residents up to $25K towards the purchase of a home they may not afford is a set-up for failure.
Indeed, any money given to black families in Evanston will help relieve financial burdens. But by limiting the spending of the so-called reparations payout to down payments of a house, mortgage pay off’s, and property restoration sounds more like a coupon redeemable only at certain businesses in Evanston.
This attempt at reparations has another significant problem. (At least to me.) I can’t forget the foreclosure crisis. Blacks and Latinos were targets of predatory lending schemes that stole back the proverbial “40 Acres and a Mule” many blacks purchased independently. Wells Fargo peddled sub-prime mortgages specifically to black and brown borrowers, regardless of credit history. (Remember those Ghetto loans for mud people.) “Mud loans” were predatory high-interest adjustable-rate loans—a set up for failure. Many folks lost their homes. Many got approvals for home purchases they really couldn’t afford. The Center for Responsible Lending study found that blacks lost about 240,000 homes to foreclosure. In contrast, Latinos lost about 335,950. The good intentions of Evanston city leaders could result in a foreclosure disaster for black residents.
Certainly, reparatory justice should come in many forms. Labeling something reparations sounds more like marketing; if it doesn’t invite blacks to fully participate in the economic ecosystem, or to determine the terms, it’s merely performance passing as reparative justice. Evanston residents did not have a say in how they wanted to be made whole. Alderwoman Cicely Fleming cast the lone vote against the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program because it did not allow people to dictate the terms of reparative justice.
Why not call it a housing program or a financial incentive. To call it “Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program” is misleading. Please don’t call it reparations. Call it what it is, a coupon. A coupon is a paper that can be exchanged for a financial discount when buying something. The deal forces Black residents to put the money towards real estate to receive a reparative benefit. Sadly, this plan may play out more like a stimulus program for white small business owners and professionals ready to capitalize on black spending. Another scheme that ends up collapsing black wealth and sets us back 400 years.
Alice T. Crowe- Opinion columnist
My passion is correcting the missing pages in our history books. Secrets of the Hollow is my latest film series. The first segment, Last Disintegrated School, the untold story of Thurgood Marshall’s fight to desegregate the Brook School in Hillburn, NY, in 1943. This untold story happened eleven years before Brown v. Board of Education. Infobase distributes Last Disintegrated School. Visit my website for information at www.acroweflyz.com. I am currently editing the revised edition of my book, How to Get Black on Track. Follow me on Twitter.