On July 14, a unanimous vote came through from Asheville, North Carolina’s City Council. The City Council apologized — on behalf of the entire city — for the Asheville's historic role in slavery, racial discrimination, and withholding of basic rights from its Black residents. The 7-0 vote included the decision to provide reparations to residents and their descendants.
Reparations will come in the form of investments in areas where Black residents face inequality. "The resulting budgetary and programmatic priorities may include but not be limited to increasing minority home ownership 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, neighborhood safety, and fairness within criminal justice," reads the resolution.
As part of the historic decision, the resolution asks the city of Asheville to create a Community Reparations Commission that will focus on making actionable recommendations for programs and resources. Community groups and other local governments are invited to join the commission. “Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that basically filled the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young in a statement. As one of two Black members of the council, Young acted as the measure’s chief supporter. “It is simply not enough to remove statutes,” Young continued. “Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature.”
Councilwoman Sheneika Smith, the council’s other Black member, spoke to USA Today to answer the emails from those asking why the city should pay reparations. “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 answered.
The subject of reparations has gained renewed attention since the surge in recent racial justice protests around the United States and the world. It is one of the numerous demands sought by protestors addressing the 400 years of injustice Black people have faced. The issue also came up early on in the 2020 campaign trail with both Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren supporting the idea.
It is a subject that has been brought up early and often but is seldom acknowledged since slavery ended in 1865. In the late 1980s, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. brought up reparations in the form of the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. He brought it up every year until he left Congress in 2017. It never passed.
Activists and supporters celebrated the news on Twitter calling it groundbreaking and long overdue.
"This process begins and is perpetual, repeating this process over and over again," Young, who is Black, said in the statement. "There is no completion box to check off." https://t.co/uecIitWeu9— Bree Newsome Bass (@BreeNewsome) July 15, 2020
This seems groundbreaking:— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) July 15, 2020
the city council in Asheville, NC passed a resolution 7–0 approving an apology to its Black residents for the city's role in slavery, and racist and discriminatory practices past and present- and approves reparations. https://t.co/qAdsB5AVHU
Wow. Wow. Wow. Bravo, Asheville. Maybe more NC communities can follow your lead. https://t.co/L2VHUw0pbq— Brooklyn Decker (@BrooklynDecker) July 15, 2020
City council members in Asheville, North Carolina, unanimously approved a resolution that paves the way for reparations to the city’s Black residents https://t.co/qZ1KdEFNK5— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) July 15, 2020