North Carolina city becomes first to approve reparations for Black residents

Asheville says they will provide investments in the Black community to address inequalities

The Asheville City Council votes for reparations for African Americans
Asheville city council members, 2020 (Credit: City of Asheville)

The Asheville City Council achieved a historic first in a meeting this week. Its seven members, two of whom are African-American, voted on a resolution on behalf of the city to apologize for slavery and historic racism and to provide reparations in the form of investments in the Black community.

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Yahoo News reports that the members came to the resolution by acknowledging the historic role that race has played in denying African-Americans opportunities.

“(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,” councilwoman Sheneika Smith said.

The reparations will not come in the form of direct payments. Instead, they will be reinvested into the Black community which makes up 11.3% of the city’s population as of 2019, according to the Census Bureau.

“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,” the resolution reads. North Carolina resolution
(Credit: screenshot)

The city held a hour of public commentary on the subject before and after the vote and says most were in support of the measure.

“This is a really, really good gesture as far as the foundation of what we can build,” Rufus Thomas, the community liaison for the Racial Justice Coalition which led the effort for reparations. “The potential of what can come out of this document is amazing.”

According to the Pack Memorial Library’s HeardTell blog, in 1860, Buncombe County had 1,907 slaves owned by 283 slave owners and 111 free Blacks out of a total population of 12,654.

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Despite the city’s resolution, there is some doubt that the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will support reparations, which would help ensure their implementation.

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