POLITICS

Asheville City Council Sets Stage For Reparations To Black Residents

An effort to make up for decades of discriminatory policies is moving ahead in the North Carolina city.

City council members in Asheville, North Carolina, unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that paves the way for reparations to the city’s Black residents, local news outlets reported.

The resolution apologized for Asheville’s past involvement with slavery and the systemic discrimination that developed out of the practice. It called on leaders at the local, state and federal level to right past wrongs as well. 

Details will be hashed out over the coming year. 

The city will form a community reparations commission to make “short, medium and long-term recommendations” to address “the damage caused by public and private systemic Racism.” 

City management were also tasked with developing “short, medium and long-term recommendations to specifically address the creation of generational wealth and to boost economic mobility and opportunity” for Black residents. 

The resolution acknowledged systemic problems facing the Black community, including racist housing policies, discriminatory education practices and wage and economic disparities, among other issues. 

Anti-racism protesters staged large demonstrations in Asheville ― as in many places around the country ― after the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota. Activists were able to successfully use the momentum to push the resolution forward. 

“It is simply not enough to remove statues. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature,” said Asheville Council member Keith Young, one of two Black representatives on the council and the main proponent of the resolution, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

Council member Sheneika Smith, the other Black representative, received emails asking why residents should pay for what happened during slavery, she told the Citizen Times. At least one other caller said the resolution was “divisive” during the Tuesday night council meeting.

“[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. 

Activists pushing for reparations at the national level face a steep uphill climb, but they have had more success at the local and state level.

The state of North Carolina in 2013 set aside $10 million to make direct monetary payments to Black people ― mostly women and girls ― forcibly sterilized as part of a Depression-era eugenics program. The fund was later opened up to surviving family members.