Asheville, North Carolina, Approves Slavery Reparations For Black Residents

drawing of slaves picking cotton
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The city of Asheville, North Carolina, voted Tuesday night to approve slavery reparations for its Black residents, The Citizen-Times reported. The ordinance doesn’t authorize direct payments, but rather aims to invest in the city’s Black community.

In a unanimous 7-0 vote Tuesday night, the city passed a resolution apologizing for its role in slavery and its historic denial of basic liberties to Black residents. Further, it approved reparations, in the form of investments aimed at “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,” according to the resolution.

The resolution doesn’t specify any concrete actions that are to be taken to meet those goals. Rather, it creates a Community Reparations Commission, which will be comprised of community groups and government agencies. That commission will then come up with a list of recommendations to give to the city.

ASHEVILLE, NC - MAY 10: A general view of "American Idol" Finalist Caleb Johnson's homecoming on May 10, 2014 in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo by Alicia Funderburk/Getty Images)
  Alicia Funderburk / Getty Images

Councilman Vijay Kapoor said that the data is clear that there are disparities between Black residents in the city of 93,000.

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

Tuesday night’s meeting brought an unusually high number of residents to discuss the issue. Indeed, an hour-long period of public comment allotted before the vote came and went before everyone had a chance to speak. Public comment continued after the vote, pushing the meeting late into the night.

Most speakers supported the measure.

One man, David Greenson, said white peoples’ souls are in jeopardy. Greenson, who is white, said that he bore personal responsibility for an infamous attack on a Black man in the city two years ago.

“I am responsible for the beating of Johnnie Rush in August of 2017. I may not have hit him or tased him or choked him, but I paid the man who did,” Greenson said.

Other speakers were opposed to the plan. One equated the plan to a Venezuelan government plot. Others said the Black Lives Matter movement was Marxist.

The concept of reparations for slavery has been around for centuries, but has been getting more attention lately in the wake of the George Floyd protests. As Insider reported, the concept takes many forms, ranging from actual cash payments to the descendants of slaves, to more indirect payments such as college scholarships or investments in social programs that would benefit the Black community.