By Anton Delgado and Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez
The approval of reparations for Black residents in Asheville this month is being followed by similar demands in other North Carolina cities.
The historic vote accepted a reparations initiative, part of which aims to provide funding to programs that increase homeownership and business and career opportunities among Black people in Asheville.
“This is an issue that diverse communities across the entire state and country will need to reckon with,” said Keith Young, one of two Black council members and a chief proponent of the measure. “It is my hope that movements like this will spread through not only our state but throughout the entire country because for this to be successful, we need to do it at a local, state and national level.”
Barely a week after the vote in Asheville, a task force asked the Durham City Council to consider similar reparations.
With a modern model in place, political science and public policy experts say it’s likely that other North Carolina communities will follow suit — though some reparations advocates have issues with the model being used.
In mid-July, the seven members of the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to approve the measure, which stops short of providing direct payments to Black residents.
“It was a moral compass moment,” Young said. “The gravity and the depth of the moment we are in as a nation speaks volumes about the people representing local citizens. No matter what you agree or disagree on, the morality of this issue is what shined bright in that 7-0 vote.”
According to city leaders, the goal of reparations is to help create generational wealth for Black people, who have been disadvantaged throughout American history by disparities in income, education and health care.
As part of the resolution, the approximately 93,000-person city — 12% of which is Black — is calling on the state and federal government to provide funding for the reparations.
“The federal government took an active role in inflicting this harm on Black people, so they should also take an active role in addressing them,” Young said. “If movements like this continue, the government will realize the benefit of giving every citizen a good quality of life and equal opportunities.”
The vote in Asheville comes after months of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
“A lot of issues relating to racism show how much we have not achieved and how far we still have to go in terms of what is going on with Black Lives Matter and the inhuman treatment of minorities in this country,” said Emmanuel Oritsejafor, chair of the political science department at North Carolina Central University — a historically Black institution.
“It may take a local model, like the one in Asheville, to begin to bring the consciousness level back to the mainstream of why it is important to address racism and all forms of dehumanizing behavior.”
Other advocates say the responsibility for reparations lies with the federal government.
“Real reparations” should be cash payments and investments made by the federal government to individuals, said Dawn Paige, a founder of the Triangle chapter of American Descendants of Slavery. ADOS is a national organization that “seeks to reclaim/restore the critical national character of the African American identity and experience.”
“What you have at the state level can never and should never be misconstrued as reparations,” Paige said. “Because there are no real measures that are included that will close the racial wealth gap.”