On a party-line vote, the county commissioners of Buncombe County, North Carolina, have endorsed a resolution calling for reparations for black residents.
The “Resolution to Support Community Reparations for Black People in Buncombe County” was supported Tuesday by four Democrats and opposed by three Republicans, according to WHNS-TV. The western North Carolina county includes the city of Asheville, which has passed similar legislation.
“America always reminds me wherever I go that I’m the black man in the room,” said Commissioner Al Whitesides, a Democrat and the county’s only black commissioner, according to the Citizen Times of Asheville.
“That’s the way it is. But this is something that we have got to get rid of and the only way we can do it is dealing with it. And when I look at our resolution, that’s what we’re doing,” he added.
Whitesides said black people in America have suffered greatly.
“It’s a wonder that every black man my age in America isn’t out there in the streets saying, ‘I’m gonna burn the place down’ because of what they’ve gone through,” he said.
“But we’re not that way because we want to see changes. We want to see our kids, our grandkids and all be successful. Most of all, give black people in this country a level playing field. That’s all we’re asking for.”
Republicans said the reparations resolution largely mirrors the strategic plan that the board had already approved.
“I can’t support this in the way it is because, in my belief, you’ve already identified — our staff … they’re already working on this,” GOP Commissioner Anthony Penland said.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Joe Belcher disliked the resolution’s plea for “additional support from Congress” and the fact that it included “some political things.”
But Democrats said the resolution was necessary.
“The civil rights era is not over, will still have a lot of work to do,” Commissioner Brownie Newman said, according to WHNS.
Democratic Commissioner Amanda Edwards said the resolution is “not a plan to write checks but to invest in programs and services for the communities of color.”
Reparations are a hot button issue in the Twittersphere.
The resolution said reparations are needed because “urban renewal in Buncombe County destroyed many homes and businesses owned by Black families and greatly harmed many traditional minority neighborhoods, displacing many people to live in public housing.”
“[D]eep disparities persist for Black people in Buncombe County, including but not limited to the areas of infant mortality, home ownership, ownership of businesses, earnings, health, education, justice system involvement, incarceration, and life expectancy.”
The resolution added that the county commission “apologizes to the Black community — including descendants of people who were enslaved in Buncombe County — and seeks to make amends for Buncombe County’s participation in and sanctioning of the enslavement of Black people” and “seeks to make amends for Buncombe County’s participation in an urban renewal program that harmed multiple, successful black communities.”
The resolution calls for establishing a federal commission to decide how reparations are paid out. Buncombe County will now take part in Asheville’s Community Reparations Commission.
The board also passed a resolution declaring racism to be a public health crisis.
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