Asheville, North Carolina, 1st city in the south to back reparations

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer takes a closer look at Asheville’s reparations resolution and whether it could set an example for addressing the lasting impact of slavery.
8:15 | 07/31/20

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Transcript for Asheville, North Carolina, 1st city in the south to back reparations
The national debate over reparations for slavery reached a historic milestone this month as Asheville, North Carolina became the very first city in the south and only the second in the nation. To formally approved financial restitution for black residents tonight. We did a closer look at what the so called reparations would actually need and ask for the city be a possibly a model for the rest of the country. Here's ABC's Devin Dwyer. In the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains Asheville, North Carolina is a bohemian retreat it's become a bit of a Mecca for people to gather. That have a moral you know liberal sensibility the city's arts and architecture scene drawing tourists from all over the country. We have a very. Diverse culture here to where it's not like any other county this near year. It's unique history also reflected in a shrouded monument towering above downtown. And granite obelisk erected for a local confederate leader in slave owner. Now a symbol of racial justice and demands for change. Well this monument is used to being the market where they would trade slave that. Just before the civil war public records show 283. White residents in Asheville owned more than 19100. Slaves. National needed dropped Thomas says the time has come for reparations. Lot of people say well you know slavery I wasn't around he wasn't. OK but what about how we have been systematically. Oh prayers in our economic floor destroyed nationwide. Through different gut government programs policies and procedures. Predatory lending rate whining clot busting I mean the list goes don't. Asheville City Council this month voted to remove the monument and to formally apologize for the history it represents two problem lotion. I sort aren't Alicia. A reparations resolution which passed unanimously. Promises financial restitution for slavery and decades of discrimination that followed. A lot of people just think reparations of that is about writing a check and that's not what this is about. This City Council says a commission will develop plans to promote black homeownership and business opportunities. That the amount of investment is still unclear. What we have committed to do in this resolution is invest in and create systems and programs and structures that will allow. Those community members to have the same opportunities. Offered economic mobility to build generational wealth that white people have. The city says it won't raise taxes to pay for the programs and also won't make direct payments to descendants of Asheville slaves. Residents are sharply divided. You gonna pay reparations for all of the things do we now do you should be bad overall. Rolling farmland. You know. Resort after payback world. When I wanted to get over the debacle didn't do something about it. Isolated in my mind isn't it it's a great thing that they did something about it there. Not racial equity capital by any stretch of the imagination we are poster child for our. That they send. The median income for all Asheville families is over 42000. Dollars but for black families it's just 30000. The wealth gap is even more staggering nationwide and net worth of a typical white family today. It's ten times greater than that but the typical black gambling. Let. Advocates see Urban Renewal programs have compounded the problem. Rudy black families and businesses including many along Astros historic eagle streets. Thomas says redlining by banks the denial of loans to creditworthy people of color kept many from coming back now. You know let people can't even afford. The out. The protests for racial justice this spring brought Asheville like so many other American cities to a boiling point. Black and white voices shining a light on the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. Pressuring local leaders to express the racial economic divide. Providence, Rhode Island in Richmond Virginia the former confederate capital now looking to follow Nashville's lead. Last year Evanston Illinois became the first US city to fund reparations for black residents. How are we gonna go about doing this in a meaningful way if you want to see actions not just work correctly you'll half payments they go to individuals. Where they may be DeMint and that that best. And then they are also still under the control. A government entity at the polls to allowing that people of them now. To use those funds in a way that benefits them back. Several leading economists say direct payments to African Americans are the most fair and effective way to bridge the wealth gap. Some estimate at thirteen trillion dollars. Local effort are good government however. Well intentioned and however desirable. Are not reparation. By any. Duke economist William Garrity says the federal government should reimburse black Americans for slave labor. Just as they paid native Americans for their land in Japanese Americans for the indignity of internment camps. During World War II the federal government is look Coble. Because of its Oracle. Listen really. Labor most of the local initiatives are variety your form. Pulling that. Which is an Angel but it's very very different from healing the wound and. He's right this isn't reparations in this threw a school but in order to reach when he is talking about. First we have to do it on the local level. Some cities move forward reparations proposals in congress have so far failed to gain widespread support. Just 31% of Americans in a recent ABC news Washington Post poll back direct payments to descendants of slaves. Most Americans 63%. Are opposed. And when you talk about. Mike in restitution. Had you make restitution for folks that are not here. People that were hurt. Cargo own people that pale heart don't. And so in my opinion we outlook toward the future work from here he quit daily and on the patchy all kinda. Agree with that this is sort of in this place both for financial reasons and for historical reasons. Would say yes. That none of us were there we were involved in and so. Why should we Perry. Resistance to reparations comes as some white pass for residents to the death of George Floyd in police custody this spring led to an epiphany. It was just such a bold and hands. Unmistakable. For example of the kind of brutality that that has been happening for centuries I think David greens and spoke out in favor of reparations before the City Council making a moral case. Wait people in this country. Neat black people to get reparations. Because to the extent that we have. Been complicit in this company. We are. We carry the moral injury of that. For now Daschle's history making stat is mostly just words on paper a blueprint for reparations the city hopes others can follow. A lesson I would I would hope other local governments take is you can do this. It's not just about writing a check don't let yourself get boxed in by people who want to box you and that way. Look at. Look at the broader system and look at what you can do to enhance investments. Until those investments com Rob Thomas says he'll keep up the fight. The community that made him now depending on him. What made me dog is all the seeds that my eldest played it in my aide as the youth that I didn't listen to at the time and then once you know. What south able to cultivate my mind and actually feed those seized the proper nourishment now I have these beautiful trees and bushes that are producing the proved that you see today. For ABC news live I'm Devin Dwyer an Asheville, North Carolina.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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