Buncombe - Asheville Reparations One Year In

April 2023 marked the 1-year anniversary of the meeting of the Community Reparations Commission, a board appointed by the City of Asheville and Buncombe County for the purpose of making short, medium, and long term recommendations to compensate black residents for slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing “institutional and systemic racism”.  The all-black 25 member CRC is the only county/ city board where members receive monthly payment for their service, as well as free meals and childcare.  The city and county initially earmarked $ 4.2 million to fund the CRC’s 2-year work cycle.  The CRC is further divided into five (5) impact focus areas (IFAs):  housing, economic development, criminal justice, health care, and education. 

In looking back over the past year, here are some of the highlights of the CRC’s meetings and work thus far:

April 2022

The CRC held its first meeting and elected Dr. Dwight Mullen as its chair and DeWAnna Little as its vice chair.  City attorney Brad Branham and Buncombe County attorney Michael Frue presented a powerpoint regarding Constitutional restrictions on government race-based discrimination and lamented that these civil rights laws would likely inhibit the work of the CRC.  These attorneys promised to make themselves available to the CRC membership to find ways to circumvent the “challenges” imposed by the US and NC Constitutions prohibiting race-based discrimination.

May 2022

The CRC demanded additional funding from the city and county despite not having yet developed any plan or program for using these funds.  They also demanded funding “in perpetuity” to reparations.  The city and county responded by adding millions of more funding to the CRC and creating an ongoing budge item to continuously fund their proposals.

June-July 2022

The CRC hosted four (4) speakers who discussed “ongoing trauma” to black persons in America and the “ongoing apartheid” of American society.  All speakers endorsed the belief that America is fundamentally racist.  They also endorsed the belief that civil rights legislation prohibiting racial discrimination should not apply to discrimination in favor of black persons.  One speaker,  Dr. Onaje Muid, even suggested that the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education needed to be revisited and that perhaps schools should be re-segregated to exclude non-black students.  This shocking proposal was applauded by the CRC.   The City paid over $40,000 combined to these four (4) speakers, who spoke for less than a combined four (4) hours.

August -November 2022

The CRC engaged in a week-long retreat in August that was not broadcast to the public.  In September, October, and November, the CRC continued to meet and discuss their five impact areas.  Subgroups for each of the five (5) impact areas were formed and began meeting separately.  The CRC facilitator company, Tequity, to whom the city and county paid over $350,000 to facilitate the CRC process resigned and was replaced by another facilitator.

December 2022

The CRC adopted its first short term recommendation called “Stop the Harm”.  The recommendation called for the city and county to hire a third-party independent (preferably black-owned) company to audit every city and county department to determine their “alignment with municipal, state, and federal regulations, statutes, and requirements to ensure the cessation of harm upon African-American people in Asheville and Buncombe County”.  The city and county again approved this recommendation without dissent  and now have the project available for bidding.  A copy of the project bid can be found here:  Buncombe County Project Bid .
Neither the county nor the city have estimated the amount of money to be spent on this audit. 

January-February 2023

In January and February 2023, the CRC met and discussed several items, among them a proposal to adopt an ethics policy for the CRC.  Several members opposed the ethics proposal as it would prevent the individual members from directly profiting from programs and funds suggested by the CRC.  Without sufficient support for the ethics policy, the CRC was forced to table the matter.  They  have not revisited the ethics policy.  The CRC also continued to discuss the Stop the Harm audit. 

March, April 2023

The 5 impact group areas began presenting their recommendations.  Some of the recommendations include:  exempting all black persons from paying property taxes; seizing any unused city/ county land to be given to black persons; free health care for black persons; eliminating bail for black persons; and providing higher pay to black teachers than teachers of other races in city and county schools.

May 2023

The CRC will meet again tonight, May 15, 2023, to further hammer out their recommendations for reparations.  The meetings can be viewed on the city of Asheville’s Youtube page.

Going forward

WNC Citizens for Equality is closely watching the CRC recommendations with concern, as many , if not all, of their recommendations appear to intend to categorize persons by race and discriminate according to skin color.  These recommendations, should they be adopted by the city and county, would clearly be unconstitutional.  WNC Citizens for Equality will continue to monitor these proposals and we encourage our local governments to keep the civil rights of ALL of their residents in mind when forming policy.  

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