I am proud that our city has made the decision to go forward with reparations for Black Ashevilleans. If you read the resolution passed, you will begin to understand that even aside from the atrocity that is slavery, the city of Asheville has wronged its Black citizens in many ways, including systemic oppression around housing, health care, education, commerce, the justice system and the accumulation of wealth.
I invite you to visit our Register of Deeds website and do an online records search using the firm name of “Redevelopment.” There are 500 entries around Asheville commandeering property in the name of progress just since the 1960s, and the names are right there.
If Asheville is serious about attempting to right some wrongs, we must do much more than offer investment in programming and community. In our plan to build generational wealth for Black Ashevilleans, we can look at direct compensation for families and descendants with history in Asheville.
We have repeatedly heard the call to defund the police by 50% and spend those dollars elsewhere to support the community. Taking this action would offer some much needed funding to get us closer to truly helpful resources and/or direct payments or land grants.
We could give the East End, Eagle Street, Southside, Hill Street, Burton Street and Stumptown back to Black Asheville. That would go a long way toward increasing wealth for the Black community. Letting them have the land “redeveloped” within my lifetime might also dramatically cut down on some of the police issues we have, since the housing developments we created seem to be a large part of the problem, according to “Asheville Arrest Data Suggest Discrimination Against Black People” by AVLWatchdog.org. The police issue petty citations to justify their presence in the projects, which begins a snowball of punishment and stereotypes that has gotten us here today.
We could use some of that money to bring back the excellent education and Black educators that the Black high school used to offer and expand on down to prenatal care, because we need a holistic fix for this education opportunity gap to close, not just a little extra homework help.
It is not a mystery why Black Asheville is and has been suffering. They’ve been educating us all along with their stories, trainings and receipts from history. White Asheville hasn’t been listening — until perhaps now.
Let’s keep listening to the leadership of Black Asheville as we attempt to right some of the wrongs perpetrated in the name of our city (and county) government. Apologies and acknowledgements are a good place to start. Listening and dialogue are a good place to start and to truly put meaning behind the word “reparations.” We as a government and people must give Black Asheville the power, respect and financial resources they are due.
We also need truth and reconciliation with the Cherokee people, but that will have to be another letter and time.
The time right now is to share power with Black Asheville, return and build wealth in a meaningful way for Black families and provide funding to get this important process started.
— Amy Meier