The Politics of A Novel Reparations Plan

Practical Politics

David L. Horne, Ph.D OW Oped | 12/12/2019, midnight

First, Los Angeles’ Reparations United Front held its 12th annual Reparations Report to the Community last Saturday, December 7th.

Congratulations. Once again, the group projected a thorough knowledge and clear direction regarding the reparations project. Anyone interested could have gained a broad and deep understanding of the issues within the reparations issue. It is not a direct and simple relationship—the struggle for reparations remains a puzzle in a box wrapped in a larger paradox, covered by a series of trap doors and hidden compartments. Those interested may go to www.reparationsunitedfront.org

Secondly, in Evanston, Illinois, Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons of the 5th ward, recently made history by motioning legislation to “direct all sales tax revenue collected from the sales of marijuana products” in Evanston to reparations payments to local citizens, and then shepherding that suggestion to its ultimate approval by the full Board of Aldermen. In Evanston, it is now the law.

Evanston is a medium-sized city right outside of Chicago. Alderwoman Simmons said that her city is rapidly losing its Black population because of the steep rise in the cost of living—particularly in housing prices—and the continued disproportionality in police arrests of Black citizens, including for possession of marijuana. Annexed to the recent Illinois state decision to decriminalize the growth and sale of marijuana products, Alderwoman Simmons put forth the innovative idea of bringing one solution to all those intertwined concerns.

Said the alderwoman, “Illinois legislation was passed that on January 1 (2020), we will have our recreational cannabis legal here. And we are going to take 100% of the first $10 million of tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales tax to fund our reparations…It’s going to impact all Black residents. We want to preserve our existing Black residency, which helps to preserve our diversity…It will include bringing repair to families…”

Clearly, such an idea has been both controversial and strongly criticized. The alderwoman said her life has been threatened, and she has received the inevitable hate mail. However, as she explained, change that makes some people uncomfortable, is always accompanied by such reactions. That consequence should not stop leaders from moving forward.

To date, there are almost 20 U.S. states which have legalized recreational marijuana use and sales, including California. It will be interesting to see whether Evanston’s choice eventually influences other cities and states to try a variation of this same idea.

With the reparations solution agreed to by the city of Chicago recently (in OW earlier) regarding the former Police Chief Jon Burgess, the state of Illinois is proving to be a hotbed of reparations innovations.

Perhaps the ultimate U.S. reparations plan will rise from that same earth. Time will surely tell.

For now, our hats are off to you, Illinois.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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