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November 19, 2019

10/30/2019 3:52:00 PM
Editorial: A Word About Reparations

Evanston is beginning to acknowledge its deliberately and sometimes very cruelly segregated past.

Our paper has published stories on Foster School, redlining in Evanston and redlining in Chicago. These stories are available on our website, One story in our next magazine, which will be available on Nov. 14 with the publication of our paper, is titled “Developing a Segregated Town.”

That article describes the actions of real estate agents, banks, white homeowners and others to prevent black households from getting a fair footing in early Evanston. The article spares no one in detailing these racist actions.

We hope that these three articles – on redlining in Chicago, Evanston’s segregation by design and the closing of Foster School – will play a significant part in the discussions of reparations as they unfold over the next few years.

At the suggestion of Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey, Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons has asked that some of the sales tax revenues from the sale of recreational cannabis – anticipated in the FY20 budget – be allocated to a reparations fund.

Talk and money are both critical to any plan to address reparations. The sins of the past will often linger into the present. Acknowledgement and atonement of some sort are components.

Institutional racism permeated Evanston. Residents of our community were denied the right to purchase a home in the neighborhood of their choice; families in the Fifth Ward have lacked a neighborhood school for many years; the opportunity gap has continued despite many efforts to address it.

Those deprivations carried on from generation to generation.

The philosopher Josiah Royce conceived of the idea of the “beloved community,” which he defined as “a spiritual or divine community capable of achieving the highest good as well as the common good.” Achieving that goal would involve the effort of each person. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expanded on that idea, demonstrating that not just individuals but whole institutions must work toward the beloved community.

We think providing funding for reparations is a good idea, but we believe it should go hand-in-hand with developing an overall plan to ascertain not just the harm done but the victims of past actions – and a plan of how to address past wrongs.

We think it would make sense to establish a commission to study these issues and to come up with proposals about how, in some way, to address past wrongs.

A commission like this could begin its work at once.

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