Evanston, Illinois Reparations Leaders Are To Be Critiqued And Encouraged, Not Criticized And Condemned

Evanston, Illinois and their citizen-activists working for Reparations for African-Americans achieved something profoundly historic when Resolution 126-R-19 was passed by the Evanston Town Council. But as this Bloomberg Businessweek article, and much of the press coverage in the wake of this resolution show, the road to this achievement and its subsequent implementation, have been anything but smooth. There has been much debate how about who should receive the property-based Reparations in Evanston, how much should be disbursed to each recipient, in what form, to whom the funds should be given, or even if the monies given constitute Reparations at all.

All of the parties involved in drafting, passing, and even opposing this legislation have been met with significant criticism, often from each other. This is unfortunate. While all of these individuals’ ideas and initiatives can and should be critiqued, none of them should be criticized, for all of them have bravely contributed to pioneering a revolutionary reparative remedy for Blacks in the United States. Those who criticize them harshly fail to understand that much of the pioneer’s job is not to find out what works, but rather, to find out what doesn’t. The citizens of Evanston are sorting out and through what does and does not resonate in their community and beyond. All of these pioneers are to be commended for boldly going where this nation refused to go before.

As Americans Black, White, and otherwise work on America’s atonement for the nation’s slavery past, on ending the racial net worth gap, and liberating White America from the sin debt of past shame and present fear that fuels so much of its present racism, there are foundational principles that need to be laid down as we do this urgent, existential work for the soul and sovereignty of America. Perhaps the citizens and leaders of Evanston, Illinois can utilize some of these as they move forward on their Reparations journey.

For example, what constitutes Reparations? This is a question that appears to be central to much of the criticism of the Evanston Reparations legislation. For our purposes, AASRT, Inc. defines African American Slave Reparations as…

“…the making of amends for the wrongs done to Africans abducted in the slave trade and brought to the United States, their descendants in the United States, and the lingering deleterious consequences to those in the United States similarly situated, by paying money, assets, of gifts in kind to or otherwise helping the aforementioned that have been wronged, without any meaningful exchange of labor, assets, or promise of future consideration on the part of the aggrieved, in a way that substantially increases their financial net worth.”

The highlights of this definition are these. One, Reparations (we always capitalize “Reparations” when referring to African American slave Reparations — just as “a holocaust” is a generic term for a burnt sacrifice or a cataclysmic war but “the Holocaust” is not, so too for “Reparations”) are financial resources explicitly tied to the recipients’ historical ancestral or racial participation in the American slavery experience in a way that was or is harmful to them.

Second, if the gift increases financial net worth, it is Reparations, but only if the amount is “substantial.” Substantial, for the purposes of Reparations, is an amount of money sufficient to achieve one of the following transformative changes in one’s life:

1. A positive change in one’s condition or economic strata of living.

2. A positive change in one’s business ownership status or rank of equity stake.

3. Full elimination of any debt or group of debts that would be expected to equal or exceed that individual’s current housing costs (or fair market value of the housing costs if living rent free) for the anticipated duration of the debt payment schedule.

4. An amount of money sufficient to pay the complete tuition costs for a degree or a trade or certification certificate to the next level in that individual’s desired field of endeavor

5. An amount of money greater than or equal to the median cost of a single family dwelling American home.

Finally, there is no “exchange” in the present with Reparations because the first part of the exchange — the unpaid labor and subsequent abuse and injustice — has already been “given” by Black people. Therefore, giving Black people jobs or discounted goods or services do not constitute Reparations since it would mean Blacks would have paid twice in the same “transaction.”

In addition, there are four principles that AASRT, Inc. uses to help outline the nature of Reparations themselves.

1. They should be finite. It is important that all parties involved have one fixed goal amount to work toward. This gives unity of purpose and provides a point of closure for the process. Net worth equality is our economic Reparational goal.

2. It should be attainable. Based upon data from the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2019 Federal Reserve Bank Triennial Survey, AASRT, Inc. calculates the current Black-White racial net worth gap at $13.166 trillion dollars — a gap that we have allotted 75 to 100 to fully resolve. If anyone doubts that amount of money can be mobilized within that time frame (or at all) by this nation, I would direct them to this website showing that America has already disbursed some $7.9 trillion dollars to combat COVID and has committed to funding an additional $5 trillion more. If $13 trillion can be mobilized in 2–3 years, then it surely can be mobilized in one hundred, whether the funds are federal or private. If the America people decide that Reparations justice is a thing worth funding, it can be funded. The American economy has grown through investment and growth. This is how the African-American economy should grow and be repaired as well — by investing in justice.

3. It should be significant. Blacks did not suffer trivial losses in slavery and therefore, they do not deserve trivial compensation. The amount paid should be large and discomforting to America; slavery and its lingering sequelae have been large and discomforting to the enslaved. Nevertheless, it is of great importance that we pursue Reparations, not retribution, since Reparations are a fruit of mercy by God to the repairer and the repaired alike.

4. It should be sufficient to meet the needs of the entirety of all African-Americans. The equality need of black folks in America is equity in net worth with the majority population. This is what all Blacks, from Black billionaires Robert Smith and Oprah Winfrey to the Black homeless person and Black welfare recipient need to have access to. Every black person in America now living has been injured by slavery; therefore, every one of them needs to be blessed by Reparations. And if all of us aren’t moved forward, then really, none of us are.

In the end, the quest for Reparations will not just be a social movement, but a feat of engineering; a system that African-Americans will have to craft and design from the ground up if it is to be done on their terms. Surely there will be some glitches, and some may even explode on the launch pad. But as all of America’s pioneers did before us — and certainly all of our Black civil rights pioneers did, we will have to recover, rethink, retool, resolve, and rely on our Creator to take Black people to the heights from whence we came; that is, to the heights of dignity and equality where we belong, in a nation that would never have been built without us.

Thank you, Black citizens of Evanston, Illinois — thank you all.

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Darryl L. Fortson, M.D. is the Executive Director of AASRT, Inc. - a 501(c)3 organization - that collects, monitors, and disburses American slave Reparations.

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Darryl Fortson

Darryl Fortson

Darryl L. Fortson, M.D. is the Executive Director of AASRT, Inc. - a 501(c)3 organization - that collects, monitors, and disburses American slave Reparations.

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