The city of Asheville, North Carolina passed a bill on Tuesday that would inject investments into Black communities to close racial disparities.
For decades now, African Americans have had to fight for opportunities within a broken socioeconomic system. A city in North Carolina has finally recognized this and wants to correct the historical injustices Black folks in the United States have had to grapple with. In a monumental first, Asheville's City Council has voted in favor of providing its Black residents reparations. In recognition of and as an apology for the city's "historic role in slavery, discrimination, and denial of basic liberties" to its Black residents, the Asheville City Council passed a resolution to create a Community Reparations Commission, USA Today reports.
Thank you to those who took the time to contact Asheville City Council and voice your support for investment and reparations in Asheville's Black communities. This is a step in the right direction. 👏 https://t.co/ciPrpnofPw— ACLU of North Carolina (@ACLU_NC) July 15, 2020
The resolution was passed on July 14 in a unanimous vote of seven votes for and none against. Councilman Keith Young, one of the only two African American members of the Council and the proposal's primary proponent, stated, "Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today. It is simply not enough to remove statutes. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature."
While the resolution does not mandate direct payments to Black residents, it does call for a boost in investments in areas where African American residents face disparities. As per the resolution, this includes (but is not 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, and neighborhood safety and fairness within the criminal justice system.
The reparations will be managed by the Community Reparations Commission, created through the resolution in order to invite community groups and other local governments to join the discourse. Unfortunately, not all residents are supportive of the new mandate. According to Councilwoman Sheneika Smith, the only other Black Council member, the Council had received emails asking why today's Asheville residents should have to "pay for what happened during slavery." To those emails, she would like to respond, "[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."
Councilman Vijay Kapoor, who supported the resolution on moral grounds, urged those skeptical of it to look to the "practical reasons" to share their support. Data reveals that large disparities between African Americans and other Asheville residents exist within the city's communities—no doubt a result of slavery. "We don't want to be held back by these gaps," the Councilman affirmed. "We want everyone to be successful."
Rob Thomas, the community liaison for the Racial Justice Coalition (the organization which pushed for reparations), thanked the Council for their progressive vote. He stated, "This is a really, really good gesture as far as the foundation of what we can build. The potential of what can come out of this document is amazing." Now, the county government must join hands with the Council in order to make systemic reparations a reality.