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Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson signs a historic executive order to establish a Reparations Task Force, addressing the city’s legacy of racial injustice.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Signs Executive Order for Reparations Task Force

By Darius Spearman (africanelements) | June 17, 2024

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On Monday, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson took a monumental step towards addressing the city’s long history of racial injustice by signing an executive order establishing a Reparations Task Force. The task force will investigate the impact of slavery and racial discrimination on Black Chicagoans from the slavery era to the present day. (SOURCE: Chicago Tribune)

Task Force to Examine Policies and Recommend Remedies

As part of the executive order, the city of Chicago issued a public apology for the historical wrongs committed against Black Chicagoans and their ancestors who continue to bear the burden of systemic injustices. (SOURCE: ABC News)

“Today’s executive order is not just a public declaration; it is a pledge to shape the future of our city by confronting the legacy of inequity that has plagued Chicago for far too long,” Johnson stated. (SOURCE: Chicago Tribune)

City Issues Public Apology for Historical Wrongs

The Reparations Task Force will delve into examining policies that have disproportionately harmed Black residents in Chicago. (SOURCE: The TRiiBE) They will conduct public hearings to gather input from the community and recommend appropriate remedies and restitution to address racial inequities across various areas, including:

  • Housing
  • Economic development
  • Health
  • Education
  • Criminal justice (SOURCE: The Hill)

Ongoing Racial Inequities in Chicago

Segregation and Concentrated Poverty

Chicago remains a highly segregated city, with many predominantly Black neighborhoods on the South and West Sides experiencing concentrated poverty, disinvestment, and lack of access to resources. (SOURCE: Harvard Public Health Review) This is a direct legacy of racist policies like redlining, restrictive covenants, blockbusting, and urban renewal projects that displaced Black communities. (SOURCE: Chicago Reporter)

“Racist lending practices like contract selling extracted wealth from Black neighborhoods. It’s estimated that 9 out of 10 Black families who bought homes in Chicago from the 1940s-1960s did so under exploitative contract sales that provided little to no equity.” (SOURCE: City of Chicago)

Health Disparities and Life Expectancy Gaps

There are stark racial disparities in life expectancy in Chicago. On average, Black Chicagoans live 9 years less than white residents. (SOURCE: WTTW News) In some neighborhoods, the gap is even larger – residents of the predominantly Black Englewood neighborhood have a life expectancy of 60, compared to 90 in the largely white Streeterville. (SOURCE: WTTW News)

Unemployment and Economic Inequity

Black Chicagoans face an unemployment rate more than double that of whites. (SOURCE: Illinois Department of Public Health) Factors like the loss of manufacturing jobs, discrimination in hiring, and lack of investment in workforce development have contributed to this disparity.

Violence and Community Trauma

Homicide rates are significantly higher in predominantly Black neighborhoods, and Black residents are over 13 times more likely than whites to die by homicide in Chicago. (SOURCE: Rush University Medical Center) This reflects the impact of segregation, disinvestment, lack of opportunity and generational trauma in these communities.

Meaningfully addressing these inequities will require significant efforts to invest in long-neglected Black neighborhoods, expand affordable housing, improve schools and job access, and more. The city has taken some initial steps, like the ETOD policy plan to drive investment near transit in disinvested areas (SOURCE: City of Chicago), but there is much more work to be done to close the racial equity gaps.

Addressing Chicago’s Legacy of Racism and Discrimination

Nearly 30% of Chicago’s population is Black, and the city has a long history of racist policies like redlining, housing discrimination, and inequitable development. (SOURCE: Yahoo News) These policies have led to present-day disparities in areas like life expectancy, unemployment, and incarceration. (SOURCE: Chicago Department of Public Health)

The Reparations Task Force represents a significant effort by the city to confront its legacy of racism and develop concrete proposals for restorative justice. (SOURCE: CBS News Chicago) While the road ahead is complex, Mayor Johnson has expressed a commitment to delivering meaningful reparations to help rectify centuries of systemic inequity. (SOURCE: Courthouse News)

About the author

Darius Spearman has been a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College since 2007. He has authored several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at africanelements.org.