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Evanston reparations ‘an incredibly important milestone,’ expert says

EVANSTON, Ill. — The city of Evanston’s decision to approve a reparations program aimed at its Black residents is an “incredibly important milestone” and a testament to the work of local activists and politicians who made the issue of racial justice central to Democratic Party politics, said Alvin Tillery, a professor of political science at Northwestern University.

In 2019, Tillery delivered training to the Evanston City Council on systemic racism as the Council held initial discussions on reparation measures.

Tillery is the director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern. His research in American politics focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics. He can be reached at or by contacting Stephanie Kulke at 847-491-4819.

Quote from Professor Tillery
“The Evanston City Council’s decision to roll out a housing program as the first initiative under the reparations ordinance that it passed under 2019 is an incredibly important milestone in the racial reckoning that our nation has been undergoing since the #BlackLivesMatter protests in the summer of 2020 cast a renewed spotlight on systemic racism in the United States.

“For a majority white city, with a majority white city council to pass this ordinance and put in place a redress program, is a testimony to the activism of the local activists and politicians who had the courage to believe that reasoned debate about the issue of systemic racism could lead to a positive outcome. It also shows that issues of racial redress are now a central component of progressive politics within the Democratic Party.

“While there is no doubt that the Evanston program will faces challenges over its constitutionality, implementation and targets of the benefits, none of that will matter in the short run. For now, what Evanston has shown is that public policy can be a tool for promoting racial equity. At the same time, it is clear that the long-term success of Evanston’s reparations program will be determined by what the city does as the cannabis tax brings more funds into city coffers. In other words, will they be able to build on this momentum to deliver a more widely disbursed benefit to Evanston’s Black residents.”

Mary Pattillo is the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and chair of the department of African American Studies at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a faculty associate with the University’s Institute for Policy Research. An urban sociologist, Pattillo’s work examines the interrelationships of race, class, ethnicity, urban space and gentrification, housing, education, the criminal justice system, politics and urban policy. Her research on the Black middle class explores new terrain in the study of race and cities. Pattillo joins the American Academy of Political and Social Science as the James S. Coleman Fellow in 2021. She can be reached at or by calling Stephanie Kulke at 847-491-4819.

Quote from Professor Pattillo
“The Evanston reparations program is historic and an important start, with the emphasis on start. All reckonings much start somewhere. The Evanston reparations plan focuses on housing, which is a very reasonable starting point given the documented widespread and systematic racism in housing and lending systems, and given how central housing is to basic well-being and to building intergenerational wealth. Yet, we must always see this as a first step in integrating reparations into all of our policy solutions to address the historic and ongoing exclusion and exploitation of Black people in the United States.”