Asheville City Council Apologizes, Approves Reparations for Black Residents

The Asheville City Council approved reparations for Black residents this week. Image via YouTube.

By patmoran

July 15, 2020

City leaders recognized the WNC city’s role in slavery and segregation and pledged to invest in projects addressing racial inequities.

In a historic move, the Asheville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to provide reparations for the city’s Black residents.

“Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today,” said Councilman Keith Young, the primary advocate for the measure.

The move for reparations could be a model for other North Carolina cities.

The council included a public apology in the resolution, acknowledging Asheville’s role in the enslavement of Africans and their descendants, enforcing segregation, fostering discrimination, and enacting urban renewal projects “that destroyed multiple successful Black communities,” the motion read.

Asheville, a small, liberal and arts-focused city nestled in Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, has a population that is 83% white, and close to 12% Black.

The measure was approved by all seven members of the council. It does not mandate direct payments to the city’s Black citizens.  Instead, it will make investments in areas where Black residents face disparities, The Associated Press reported

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Budgetary and programmatic priorities will include addressing affordable housing, home ownership, career opportunities and business ownership among Black residents. Also targeted will be ways to build generational wealth, overcoming health care inequities, investments in education and the effects of the criminal justice process, the resolution reads.

“It is simply not enough to remove statutes,” Young said, according to The Asheville Citizen Times. “Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature.” 

The resolution’s supporters hope that Buncombe County, which includes Asheville, will back the measure as well. That county board is considering whether it will offer support of the resolution.

Reparations Commission Created 

The measure will also create a Community Reparations Commission charged with recommending the programs and resources invested in as part of the reparations. 

The goal is to have the reparations outlast this particular group of city council members, Young said at another council meeting held last week. 

“I don’t want to be made whole through one singular action or shuffling of money that another elected body can change at a drop of a dime,” The Root reported. “I want generations to be made whole through systemic action.”

Sheneika Smith told The Citizen Times that she and others had gotten constituent emails asking,  “Why should we pay for what happened during slavery?”

To that, she offered this answer: “(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.” 

Councilman Vijay Kapoor cited both moral and practical reasons for supporting the measure. Data has shown and continues to show large disparities between Black Asheville residents and other Asheville residents, Kapoor said.

“We don’t want to be held back by these gaps,” Kapoor said. “We want everyone to be successful.”

Editor’s note: The piece has been updated to remove unnecessary descriptors in the article.


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