Legal Troubles for Evanston’s Landmark Reparations Plan

Estimated read time 4 min read

For the first time in US history, Evanston, Illinois, started giving reparations to its Black residents in 2021. This was a move aimed at righting past wrongs and housing bias that targeted Black Americans in the city from 1919 to 1969. A conservative activist group known as Judicial Watch has now decided to fight this effort with a federal class action lawsuit alleging the plan discriminates against nonblack citizens.


Details of the Reparations Plan

The approach employed by Evanston involves financial recompense for Black inhabitants and their offspring who felt or were impacted by prejudice in housing. The plan at first offered $25,000 grants directed towards home purchase, repairs or debt relief related to housing. Recently they started offering direct cash payments too. These initiatives are funded through marijuana sales tax, with $20 million allocated so far.


About the Lawsuit

Judicial Watch registered its lawsuit on May 23 representing six nonblack Evanston citizens. They insist that framing eligibility criteria based on race breaks the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment of US Constitution. Tom Fitton, who heads Judicial Watch said, “Our historic civil rights class action lawsuit is aimed at defending our Constitution that doesn’t see color.”

The suing party argues they would also sign up for these reparations if there were no racial constraints attached to eligibility. According to them it’s unfair that race is used as a determinant of discrimination experience and that other unbiased methods could have been used instead.


Evanston’s Reaction

Evanston is prepared to staunchly defend their plan for reparations. Cynthia Vargas from city communications mentioned their intention to strongly defend any legal case against their plan, though they declined for now to share further details about the coming legal proceedings.

Former city official Robin Rue Simmons who had a key role in bringing this reparations plan to life commends Evanston’s drive to redress past wrongs. She particularly praised their concentration on solving issues related to housing, business, and education that specifically plague the Black community.


Larger Picture

Evanston’s experiment forms part of a wider discussion in the US concerning how to compensate black Americans for long-haul impacts from slavery and institutional racism. Apart from Evanston, other cities like Asheville, Durham, Amherst and Providence have pledged their support for such reparation’s programs. States like California, New York and Massachusetts are also considering similar plans.

The subject of reparations nonetheless continues being fiercely debated. According to recent data by Pew Research Center while most Black Americans seem inclined towards reparations about 75% of white adults along with majority Latin Americans and Asian Americans are against it.


Constitutional Standoff

A previous Supreme Court ruling in 2023 against race-based selection in college admissions surfaces again due to this lawsuit questioning Evanston’s reparations program. Conservative groups take a stand that race based public service breaches constitutional principles promising equal protection for all.

Ilya Shapiro belonging to Manhattan Institute’s constitutional studies division pointed out that direct compensation for overt discrimination is indeed constitutional, but it gets murky when extended family start getting aid because at some point it just appears as race-oriented government subsidies assigned without directly addressing past mistakes.


The Future Implications

The outcome of the ongoing courts proceedings will have important influence over future programs trying to rectify historic systemic disadvantages black Americans were subjected to.

Kamilah Moore who is leading California’s reparations mission drew attention to the criticality of this lawsuits result stating, “This case will definitely affect other such programs taking shape in different communities.”


Wrapping Up

Evanston’s unique approach towards trying to set right past wrongs while giving financial assistance to those impacted by discrimination is laudable but its future is unclear as constitutional validity of their plan faces legal scrutiny. This legal battle will certainly influence the future nationwide discussions surrounding reparations and government schemes based on race. Evanston’s determination to fight for its program brings back into focus the persistent battle between atoning for historic injustices and current legal guidelines.

Celina Brooks

Celina Brooks from Mussoorie is a Writer & Researcher. She earned her Engineering degree in IT from Rutgers University. She is a technology enthusiast but loves writing and talking about local news as well. She is a jolly person with 2 children.

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