We achieved apotheosis the Monday before Thanksgiving when, after a push that began in 2002, the City Council voted to tax sales of recreational marijuana at 3% and devote the proceeds to reparations. Read more about it here and note that "people were in awe of us." They still are; some are simply stunned. The vote was 8-to-1, with the retrograde 6th Ward Councilman in solitary opposition, and the ordinance awaits only the signature of our supportive mayor.
The sale of recreational weed won't actually be legal until New Year's Day (pity the poor dealer who gets nabbed while catering to the New Year's Eve trade), but city staff expect the tax to bring in $250,000 dollars during the first half of 2020. After that, things get hazy; there might be a second-half bump or super-bump, depending on election mood swings. However much comes in, the money will be placed in a Reparations Fund, which will also accept donations from businesses, organizations and individuals.
Ideas for how to spend the money continue to be refined. In June, the Evanston Equity and Empowerment Commission (aren't you jealous?) established a subcommittee to begin work. It's complicated. Evanston, in northern Illinois, was on the good side of the Civil War and Reconstruction. But that doesn't matter because our sin is more recent and based on racism, rather than slavery per se. During the 1950s, '60s and '70s, real estate brokers and lenders allegedly refused to provide mortgage loans to blacks and directed them to less desirable neighborhoods. Those brokers and lenders might be seen as private actors, but there are allusions to nefarious municipal zoning practices that implicate the city. I haven't dug into the zoning, but prior to Nixon's resignation, Evanston was dominated by white Republicans who were capable of anything. The consequences of the bad practices persist unto this day 50 years later: a lower percentage of black Evanstonians own houses now than in the 1950s and black people are leaving Evanston because there is not enough opportunity and barriers prevent them from achieving the same economic vitality as whites. It's all quite ugly and intolerable and the racial emigres are well out of it.
The barriers that prevent blacks from achieving economic equality with whites may be rooted in slavery, but slavery was a manifestation of racism and racism is systemic and current. The next step must be to link the marijuana tax to the remediation of systematic racism. Because systematic racism is pervasive and invisible, it is unlikely to be cured and we surely will have to remediate forever. The dedicated tax is unlikely to be enough and remediation will have to be funded from the general revenue. To pound the message home, we must substitute "remediation" for "reparation" and "systematic racism" for "slavery" just as we substituted "climate change" for "warming."
But I have not been snatched by alien pod-things and so enough pretense. "Systematic racism" is a con and the call for slavery reparations is racist pandering. I oppose both of them and renounce whatever virtue points might have accrued to me by virtue of living here.
Evanstonians, who are supposed to be smart as well as good, have dedicated a revenue stream to doing something about something for their black neighbors. But if reparations really were needed and racism really were systematic, then what needs to be done would be clear and we would not need a committee to think of something.
Ideally, we would scrap the whole idea and pour the marijuana money into the deep hole of our municipal pension fund (which is short by 55%). A few of the city workers, cops and firefighters are black and paying their pensions might help them recover from careers hampered by racial headwinds and barriers. But of course that would have no PR value. Any goof can pay his bills and lots of municipalities fund their pensions without drawing a single headline or retweet.
So, my fallback suggestion would be to use the money for a statue to commemorate the suffering of slaves. Something along the lines of Rodin's Burghers of Calais would be appropriate and even I could appreciate it, despite feeling no guilt for slavery, institutional racism, or my blotchy beige skin.