When it Comes to Reparations, Is All Politics Local?

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tags: racism, African American history, reparations

The city of Detroit took everything from Keith E. Williams and his family. He now wants it back.

Right before he was born, Mr. Williams’s parents and older siblings left Black Bottom, a once vibrant and predominately Black neighborhood in Detroit, when city officials demolished the area as part of what was billed as a large-scale urban renewal project in the 1950s. The land is now a major freeway, I-375, and the location of the largely white, and affluent, Lafayette Park neighborhood.

Although city officials claimed it had successfully relocated the Black Detroiters who once lived there, no independent source ever confirmed those assertions, according to The Detroit Free Press. Mr. Williams’s family, who were among 43,096 displaced residents and an additional 409 Black business owners, struggled to rebuild their lives.

“It was taken from us,” Mr. Williams, who is now 64 and the chair of the state’s Black Democratic caucus, said. “It’s not only my family, it’s also all the other families that left too. We are still trying to catch up.”

But they may be closer to some relief now than in the past.

Detroit, like many other cities across the nation, is studying how best to atone for its racist past, part of a movement that has centered on the toll from slavery but has expanded to more local offenses.

In November, Detroit residents will be asked if they support the formation of a reparations committee that will research “housing and economic development programs” for its Black residents.

“It’s more than just talk for the first time,” said Mary Sheffield, the councilwoman who spearheaded the measure after local community leaders including Mr. Williams reached out to her. “We are seeing policymakers be serious about it, and we’re looking at what other cities have done, too.”

Read entire article at New York Times

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