Asheville city council approves reparations plan as Providence explores idea

The city will make investments in areas where Black residents face disparities.

July 16, 2020, 9:16 AM

Leaders in Asheville, North Carolina, have taken a historic step to repair centuries of racial prejudice by unanimously voting to provide reparations.

The Asheville City Council voted 7-0 on a resolution Tuesday night that formally apologized to its Black residents for the city's role in slavery, discriminatory housing practices, and other racist policies throughout its history.

The measure also calls for a plan to provide reparations to its Black residents in the form of investments in their community such as "increasing minority home ownership," "increasing minority business ownership and career opportunities," and "strategies to grow equity and generational wealth," according to the resolution.

Councilman Keith Young, who spearheaded the resolution, told ABC News in a statement that the council was looking "to embed systemic solutions."

PHOTO: Asheville City Hall, Asheville, North Carolina.
Asheville City Hall, Asheville, North Carolina.
Daniela Duncan/Getty Images, STOCK PHOTO

"This process begins and is perpetual, repeating this process over and over again," Young, who is Black, said in the statement. "There is no completion box to check off."

The resolution, which was signed by Mayor Esther Manheimer, calls for the creation of a Community Reparations Commission that will be made up of businesses, local groups and elected officials. The commission will issue detailed recommendations, with plans to implement the reparations in the short and long term.

"As far as the timeline goes, we will have some steps to report on within six months and every six months after that," Young said in a statement. "This work does not end and will be adaptive, no matter what governing body holds office or who runs our city."

Asheville has a population of 92,870, 83% of which is white, according to the U.S. Census. Minorities own roughly 9.7% of the town's 12,785 businesses, according to Census data.

PHOTO: Asheville, North Carolina.
Asheville, North Carolina.
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock, STOCK PHOTO

The council's resolution also calls on the state and federal governments to come up with their own reparation policies.

"It's clear to me that federal reparations legislation would be the most impactful," Mayor Manheimer said in a statement. "However, this is a conversation that is happening among diverse groups of people in cities and towns throughout the United States and through our resolution the City of Asheville has joined in this conversation."

On Wednesday evening, Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order that would explore reparations for his city's Black and Indigenous residents.

The order will examine the history of slavery and genocide of Native Americans and go through a "reconciliation" process with its Black and Indigenous residents. The order will then explore a process for reparations that would "reverse the injuries resulting from the truth findings and advise what appropriate policies, programs, and projects."

"A lot of folks are going to jump straight to the reparations question," Elorza said. "How much? What form? For how long? Whose eligible? Those are all legitimate questions, but they're questions for another day."

ABC News' Brittany Stevens contributed to this report.

This report was featured in the Thursday, July 16, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

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