St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones has signed an executive order to create a reparations commission that will “recommend a proposal to begin repairing the harms that have been inflicted” by slavery and segregation, ABC News reported.
Jones made the decision on Wednesday, citing the need for a volunteer commission that will make recommendations and ultimately a plan as to how reparations can become a reality for Black city residents. The commission will consist of nine people: a civil rights advocate, a clergy member, an attorney, an academic, public health professional and a youth.
“The people closest to the problems are closest to the solution,” Jones said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing this commission’s work to chart a course that restores the vitality of Black communities in our city after decades of disinvestment. We cannot succeed as a city if one-half is allowed to fail.”
According to reports, the commission will hold public monthly meetings to discuss their progress and findings. Jones did not state a specific deadline for when recommendations would be made.
Racism & segregation have caused years of turmoil in St. Louis
Racism and segregation have been long-standing issues in St. Louis. “Nearly half of its 300,000 residents are Black and many of them live in north St. Louis, where rates of crime and poverty are high,” AP News noted. Income disparities between Black and white Louisans have also caused a racial divide. “The median household income for white St. Louisans is $55,000, nearly twice the median income for Black households, $28,000,” the news outlet noted.
Racial tension and discrimination surged in the city after the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a Black teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a city that is a part of St. Louis county. Criticism flared after the officer was not charged with the young teen’s death, further amplifying fears of discrimination among Black communities.
Reparations may be the first step toward helping Black Americans in St. Louis and across the U.S. heal from years of mistrust and pain due to the justice system. Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. echoed similar sentiments after news of the commission made headlines. “Reparations would be one way to begin, and it’s important to consider all the options,” Chapel said.
A few other states across the U.S. are working to institute reparations
A number of states across the U.S. are a few proposals away from successfully distributing reparation payments to harmed Black Americans. Some have already succeeded. Last year, the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, became the first city to make reparations available to Black residents.
The city will use tax money from recreational marijuana sales to distribute nearly $10 million to eligible Black households. Under the plan, Black residents will receive $25,000 for a myriad of different needs, including home repairs, home down payments and interest or late penalties.
On March 30, members of California’s reparations taskforce team voted to issue restitution payments to Black residents of the golden state. A few months prior, Rhode Island Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order to create a “Truth-Telling, Reconciliation and Municipal Reparations Process” that would explore the feasibility of issuing direct cash payments to Black residents.
“We’re putting a marker on the ground and committing to elevating this conversation and using the levers at our disposal to correct the wrongs of the past,” Elorza said of his decision at the time, according to The Providence Journal.
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