Two cities start the reparations conversation — will the country follow?

John Kennedy
Published in
6 min readJul 17, 2020

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Back in 2003, Dave Chappelle imagined a reality in which the U.S. paid more than $1 trillion in reparations to descendents of enslaved people. That Chappelle’s Show episode — in which a hot-handed Harlem dice roller named Tron overtakes Bill Gates as the world’s wealthiest man after gambling his newfound earnings — was all the more hilarious for its absurdity, playing on a premise that seemed just as unlikely back then as America electing a Black president. Nearly two decades later, in the midst of an intensifying national reckoning with racism, it seems like that unbelievable scenario may be materializing into something real.

This week, Asheville, North Carolina officials formally apologized for the city’s historic role in slavery and discrimination, and presented a plan for reparations. Councilman Keith Young, one of the city’s two Black council members and the one who proposed the original resolution — which ended up passing unanimously — insisted that taking down monuments of storied racists isn’t enough. Rather than cash disbursements, though, the resolution will direct funding to communities where Black residents face disparities in areas like home ownership and entrepreneurship. Elsewhere, in Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order to start its own reparations process, which stresses an accurate recounting of history, accountability, and atonement. It’s a big move in the smallest state, which dropped the word “plantations” from its official name just last month.

Here are two relatively small cities pushing forward with quote-unquote progressive legislation 155 years after General William Sherman’s initial promise of 40 acres and a mule. But perhaps these are baby steps to the federal government acknowledging — and more importantly, compensating — for the far-reaching generational impact of slavery. And all I can say is: It’s about damn time.

John Kennedy
Writer for

Editor-in-Chief, LEVEL