Chicago Mayor Orders Task Force on Reparations for Black Residents

The mayor of Chicago signed an executive order on Monday to establish a task force that will make recommendations for reparations to address policies that have harmed Black residents over the decades.

The task force will study Chicago laws and policies from the slavery era to today, hold public hearings and make recommendations “that will serve as appropriate remedies and restitution for past injustices,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

The reparations task force mirrors efforts by other local and state governments across the country that have sought to determine whether reparations should be made for the lasting impact of slavery and discriminatory practices.

The mayor, Brandon Johnson, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday that the executive order was “a pledge to shape the future of our city by confronting the legacy of inequity that has plagued Chicago for far too long.”

The executive order does not put a dollar amount on any potential reparations, and it does not say who will be eligible if the task force recommends any payment in the city, which is nearly 30 percent Black. The order came after $500,000 was earmarked in Chicago’s 2024 budget toward studying reparations.

Mr. Johnson’s announcement of the task force, made at a Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony on Monday, drew loud applause from the crowd at the event.

“Reparations will be an investment in our neighborhoods and our people,” he said. “On behalf of the City of Chicago, we apologize not just on behalf of Black folks who have been harmed, but their ancestors who never saw this day.”

Civil rights activists have long called for governments to consider reparations for Black Americans. In many instances, those calls were spurred by nationwide social justice protests in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd.

In California, a task force was established in 2020 to examine and outline recommendations for reparations across the state. Late last year, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Democrat of New York, signed a bill that created a commission to look at the effects of racial injustice, such as housing discrimination, biased policing and income inequality.

In Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, officials began planning in 2021 how to distribute $10 million to Black residents in the form of housing grants. The Evanston City Council agreed in 2019 to use some tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales to generate a reparations fund.

The executive order in Chicago highlighted a number of discriminatory policies in the city over the years such as federal highway construction, which often separated Black neighborhoods from white ones, and redlining in the city from the 1940s through the 1970s, a practice that prevented Black Chicagoans from getting loans for homes in certain neighborhoods.

Within the next three months, Mr. Johnson will invite the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus, which is made up of members of the City Council who represent predominantly Black communities, to determine how members will be selected for the task force, according to the executive order. After the task force is formed and meets for the first time, its members will have about a year to come up with a report that includes recommendations for reparations. That report will also identify other areas that may need “reparative action,” like housing, mass incarceration and overpolicing.

Stephanie D. Coleman, alderman for the 16th Ward of Chicago, said in a statement on Monday that she was proud to see “concrete action rather than just engaging in discourse.”

“I am thankful to the Johnson administration for its continued support and commitment to addressing the deep wounds inflicted by centuries of injustice against the Black community,” she said. “We will not be ashamed of who we are, and what we have overcome.”

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