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Conservative Legal Group Judicial Watch Sues City Over Reparations Payments To Black Residents

A conservative activist group, Judicial Watch, has filed a class action lawsuit against Evanston, Illinois' reparations program, claiming it is unconstitutional due to race-based qualifications. Evanston, the first U.S. city to implement such a program in 2021, offers payments to Black residents impacted by discriminatory zoning from 1919 to 1969. The lawsuit represents six non-Black individuals whose ancestors lived in Evanston during that period. They argue the program violates the equal protection clause by using race as a criterion for experiencing past discrimination.

This legal challenge follows recent Supreme Court decisions ending race-conscious admissions for colleges, shifting focus to local initiatives and scholarship programs. Evanston's program aims to address "historical harm" from discriminatory housing policies like redlining, which prevented Black residents from buying homes in white areas, hindering wealth accumulation and fostering segregation.

The program's first phase provided $25,000 to eligible Black residents, funded by the city's cannabis sales tax revenue, with plans to distribute $10 million over a decade. Initially, the program faced criticism for being limited to homeowners, excluding renters. Advocacy by residents, such as Sebastian Nalls, led to the inclusion of direct cash payments for housing costs. As of May 1, 129 people had accepted payments, with 80 more expected to receive them this year.

Judicial Watch claims the plaintiffs should be eligible, meeting all criteria except for race. They seek $25,000 in damages and a judicial order to stop race-based qualifications in the program. Evanston officials, while not commenting on pending litigation, pledged to robustly defend their reparations initiative.

The lawsuit against Evanston's reparations program by Judicial Watch is profoundly disappointing. Evanston's initiative, designed to compensate Black residents for the discriminatory zoning practices that stifled their economic opportunities, represents a crucial step towards rectifying generational harm. The fact that this program is now under attack highlights the ongoing resistance to acknowledging and addressing the deep-seated inequalities that have long plagued our society.

Link: NBCNews


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