N Carolina county joins Asheville with vote for reparations

A county in western North Carolina has joined the neighboring city of Asheville to apologize for its role in slavery and to take the rare step of supporting reparations for Black residents

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- A county in western North Carolina has joined the neighboring city of Asheville to apologize for its role in slavery and take the rare step of supporting reparations for Black residents.

Buncombe County officials passed the measure Tuesday night 4-3 along party lines, with Democrats being in favor, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Similar to the one passed in Asheville last month, the county's resolution does not call for direct payments. It focuses instead on county efforts to prioritize racial equity.

Buncombe County will also participate in Asheville’s Community Reparations Commission. It will determine funding and give other recommendations for investments.

Experts have said that such resolutions are rare across the nation, but momentum for such moves has grown this summer amid the racial reckoning sweeping the country after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd, a Black man, died after an officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd pleaded for air.

State governments in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are among those considering reparations. California’s state House passed legislation in June with the Senate expected to review the bill.

“It’s time for us to do something,” said Commissioner Al Whitesides, a Democrat and the only Black member of the Buncombe County board. “I just hope we have the guts to finish what we start.”

Whitesides added that it was especially important to address the “800-pound gorilla” of racism when “we have one of the most racist presidents that’s been in the White House during my time.”

Republican members argued the county already is trying to address racial disparities through a separate strategic plan which passed earlier this year.

“I can’t support this in the way it is because, in my belief, you’ve already identified — our staff … they’re already working on this,” Commissioner Anthony Penland said.