A U.S. House subcommittee will hold a hearing on reparations for slavery today, and an Evanston commission will discuss the same issue tomorrow.

The Washington hearing is being held on June 19 because it’s Juneteenth — a day of celebration marking the day in 1865 when residents of Galveston, Texas, learned the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free.

The hearing is on H.R. 40, which calls for creation of a commission “to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans.”

Ta-Nehisi Coats, author of “The Case for Reparations,” actor Danny Glover and legal and economic experts are scheduled to testify.

Here in Evanston, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, is scheduled to discuss what she describes as a “Solutions Only” policy for reparations for the west end of the 5th Ward at Thursday’s meeting of the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission.

No meeting packet that would provide details on any of the items up for discussion by the commission has been issued by the city as of this morning.

But, at a meeting of the commission in April, Rue Simmons suggested that black students from Evanston should have free access to Northwestern University and Oakton Community College if they’re academically qualified to enter those schools.

She said black families were “confined to the west end of the 5th Ward” and “still in many ways are financially enslaved.”

One precedent at the federal level for direct payment of reparations to victims of government misdeeds was the 1988 Civil Liberties Act that provided a formal apology and $20,000 in compensation to each Japanese-American who’d been interned by the government during World War II. That legislation resulted in payments totaling more than $1.6 billion.

If the City of Evanston were to make payments of the same size to the estimated 17 percent of city residents who are black, the cost would be roughly $252 million — or about 95 percent of the city’s total spending this year, after adjusting for interfund transfers.

The proposals for reparations at the federal level — or at least to form a commission to study the issue — have drawn support from some — but not all — Democratic presidential hopefuls. Critics say the issue has the potential to split Democrats from white working-class voters.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says the nation needs to pay attention to distressed communities regardless of race.

And U.S. Rep. James Clyburn from South Carolina is pushing a “10-20-30” plan that instead of providing cash reparations would require federal programs to direct at least 10 percent of their funds to communities where at least 20 percent of the population has lived below the poverty line for at least the last 30 years.

Related story

Aldermen want city to apologize for racist policies (4/18/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Proposal to direct funds without adding to expenditures

    I am disturbed by the langugage in a resolution sponsored by Ald. Fleming and unanimously endorsed by the city council that blames city policies for “the collapse of a once economically thriving black community.” Anyone looking to collect damages from the city for related injury will surely use this resolution as evidence in their lawsuit. However, despite my skepticism, I would be very interested in Ald. Simmons’ discussion if it were to include this 10-20-30 formula proposed by SC Rep. James Clyburn that directs funds rather than seeks additional funding. The City of Evanston has ZERO additional funds, so let’s be realistic. This formula appears to be a fair, long-term and reasonable method to finally address black people who proclaim that the system prevents them from attaining financial stability and success. Creative and thoughtful minds can surely find a way to scale Clyburn’s formula to our little town, whether via wards, census tracts, or…other? Then maybe we can finally move forward and start solving other problems that involve all races.

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