Posted on July 25, 2020

Durham Racial Equity Task Force Calls for City to Offer Reparations

Charlie Innis, The News & Observer, July 23, 2020

A city task force asked the Durham City Council on Thursday to consider some form of reparations to address systemic racism and human rights violations at the local level.

In its first official report since being formed 21 months ago, the racial equity task force urged city leaders to establish a reparations program and a fund to “address the city’s growing racial wealth gap.”

“If you believe in the necessity of genuine anti-racist action, then we urge you to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is,” the report states.

In addition to reparations, several task force members spoke to council members about policy recommendations to address inequity in the legal system, public health, housing and education.


Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson had proposed the city appoint 17 members across racial and ethnic lines. Members had to be Durham residents with racial equity training. {snip}


The task force wants the city to create a wealth equity fund to pull from for reparation efforts.

“As white people, we live in a permanent state of unpaid debt to our Black sisters and brothers, to indigenous people and to all others exploited by the economy that we built on stolen land on the backs of enslaved people,” said criminal justice attorney Emily Coward, a task force member.

The group wants Durham’s elected officials to push for reparations resolutions at a national level while implementing local programs.


The report to the council notes the city of Asheville’s recent steps to approve reparations for its Black residents and encourages Durham leaders to do the same.

On July 14, Asheville’s city council unanimously approved measures to fund reparations programs, but didn’t stipulate direct payments to individuals, The New York Times reported.


The task force also call for policies to decriminalize substance abuse, poverty, mental illness, and to address housing inequality and public health.

This includes:

  • decriminalizing cannabis possession for personal use
  • eliminating police traffic stops “based solely on equipment infractions”
  • banning questions about criminal system history for potential renters
  • providing mortgage and public rent relief
  • declaring racism a “public health crisis”
  • increasing funding to court diversion programs
  • monitoring whether jury pools are racially and ethnically representative
  • investing in mental health wellness through community-based yoga classes, meditation centers, and other recreational spaces
  • beautifying parks in under-served areas


In the group’s presentation on education, task force member Katie Mgongolwa said she recognized education is a “hot button issue.”


Among the long-term recommendations, the task force wants more staff members of color, implicit bias training for teachers, limits on school resource officers’ power, and in-class conversations about race and white privilege.