The Washington Post reported on Tuesday (Nov. 29) that a reparations program in Rhode Island will allow its white citizens to apply for access to the funds.
Mayor Jorge Elorza approved a $10 million budget for the Providence Municipal Reparations program in November. “Folks mentioned all of the reasons why it shouldn’t be done, and there are a lot of folks, frankly, that thought it would never get done,” he told The Providence Journal on Nov. 18.
In August, the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission elected not to issue direct payments to residents, instead agreeing to fund different initiatives promoting equity. More than $1 million will go towards home ownership, financial literacy, workforce training, small businesses, grants, and more.
Elorza said the program would center on helping the city’s Black and Native American residents; however, white residents will also be allowed access to the funding. According to The Post, the latter group will have to meet specific income criteria.
Community organizer Justice Gaines told the publication he is concerned about the efficacy of the program. “This is a short-term response to a 400-year problem because it makes people feel better,” said Gaines. “My big fear is that there are now white people in our state who could say we already gave them reparations,” he added.
Black and Native American citizens make up just 12 percent of Rhode Island’s population. Last year, a 194-page report detailed the city’s ties to slavery and its disenfranchisement of indigenous groups. Elorza said the report made the city “one step closer to understanding and acknowledging the depth of our history of racial injustice, and its unfortunate continued impact” on its minority communities.
In 2021, Evanston, Ill., became the first U.S. city to issue slavery reparations. The historic plan has a $10 million budget. The first phase will see 16 residents receive $25,000 for home repairs or property costs.