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U.S. North Carolina city approves reparations for Black residents, apologizing for slavery

  • The Asheville City Council passed a resolution supporting reparations for Black residents, calling on the state to do the same.
  • The resolution officially apologizes for slavery and segregation, among other injustices.
  • While no funds have been allocated yet, the Council is developing a process to invest in the Black community.

By Anagha Srikanth, The Hill, July 15, 2020

The issue of reparations for Black Americans is often bogged down by questions of how they will be funded, distributed and otherwise enacted. But the city of Asheville is taking the first step, and, in doing so, making history. 

A resolution passed unanimously, 7-0, on Monday night by the city council officially apologizes for the city’s participation in slavery, segregation, redlining and other injustices against its Black residents. 

“Hundreds of years of black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young, one of two African American members of the City Council, during the meeting. “It is simply not enough to remove statues. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature.”

Referencing the recent removal of Confederate statues in North Carolina and other states following protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Young said: “Anything less than systemic change is just feel good politics in the moment.” 

The resolution doesn’t directly order the distribution of reparations, but starts a process to develop recommendations for creating generational wealth and boosting economic mobility and opportunity in the Black community. It also establishes a new commission to make recommendations to repair the damage caused by both public and private systemic racism. 

“The report and the resulting budgetary and programmatic priorities may include but not be 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, neighborhood safety and fairness within criminal justice,” the resolution says. 

The city council also called on the state and federal governments to provide funding for reparations, an issue that has stagnated at those levels for decades. But for the residents of Asheville, the resolution acknowledged the injustices they have suffered and continue to suffer. 

In addition to apologizing for slavery and segregation, the resolution specifically acknowledges more recent ways in which Black people have been discriminated against in schooling, business, health care, education, housing, transportation and law enforcement. 

“The City Council of the City of Asheville (1) apologizes and makes amends for its participation in and sanctioning of the Enslavement of Black People; (2) apologizes and makes amends for its enforcement of segregation and its accompanying discriminatory practices; (3) apologizes and makes amends for carrying out an urban renewal program that destroyed multiple successful black communities,” said the resolution, calling for other organizations and institutions in the community to do the same. 

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