“I hope we have the guts to finish what we are starting,” stated Commissioner Al Whitesides while he passionately explained the adversities of growing up Black in Buncombe County during the Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Aug. 4. “It’s not always going to be comfortable… I’ve had this fight all my life, so it’s something I’m used to. We’ve got to deal with it,” he said of combatting systemic racism head-on with the County’s resolution to support reparations for Black people and its 2025 Strategic Plan.
Some of the highlights of the resolution include:
- Apologies and efforts to make amends to Buncombe County’s Black community for the County’s: participation in and sanctioning of the enslavement of Black people; enforcement of segregation and racist, discriminatory policies and practices during that era; and participation in an urban renewal program that harmed multiple, successful black communities.
- The County will appoint representatives to serve on the Community Reparations Commission, a newly formed task force created by the City of Asheville.
- The County will continue its work and funding in the following areas: increasing quality early childhood education opportunities; increasing Black homeownership, business ownership, and other ways to build generational wealth within the Black community; reducing health disparities including infant mortality; and reducing racial disparities in the justice system.
“What might reparations look like in our community? I don’t have answers and it’s important for us to listen more than talk,” said Commission Chair Brownie Newman. “I would like to see new investments for Black families that want homeownership, and to start businesses. Racism can’t be solved by local government alone, but we can help by working on education, justice, and other areas.”
Commissioner Whitesides also noted: “We want to see changes. We want our kids and grandkids to be successful and most of all give Black people a level playing field. That’s all we’re asking for.”
The Board approved the resolution by a vote of 4-3. You can read the resolution here.