'Truth Telling' Series Aims To Guide City Toward Reparations

Jun 16, 2021

The City of Asheville wraps up a series of public discussions about reparations on Thursday. The final of the three “Truth Telling” presentations looks to guide policymakers toward improving and healing areas where the city’s Black community has been disproportionately harmed. 

During the second truth telling session last week, retired UNC Asheville professor of political science Dr. Dwight Mullen clarified, the city needs to repair the damage from segregation, not slavery.

“Segregation was not just about separation, it was about subordination, the intentionality of creating inferiority among a people, oppressing them deliberately through public policy. Making it so that the outcomes of public policy were never equal,” Mullen said. 

Credit Tim Pierce / Creative Commons

That damage is easier to pinpoint, according to Mullen, by analyzing data from several policy areas where Asheville’s Black community has been disproportionately impacted.  That includes housing. Of the city’s homeowners, for instance, 2.4 percent are African American, but they make up 11.2 percent of the city’s population. 

“It’s kind of evident, the outcomes of urban renewal. You want to do something about it? You want to repair the damage? Let’s talk about property being transferred, land and trust. Let’s talk about the end of gentrification,” Mullen said. 

Mullen says policies, like okay-ing rapid development for higher tax revenues, has led to displacement of the city’s Black community, leading to homelesness and a reliance on rental homes -- which are in short supply.  

Last week’s presentation also highlighted disparities in the city’s public schools, law enforcement, and health outcomes. Mullen was joined by three other panelists --  Rinku Sen, executive director of the Narrative Initiative, Jorge Redmond, assistant district attorney for Buncombe County, and Dr. Marcus Harvey, associate professor of religious studies at UNCA. The final installment in the series, all moderated by UNCA history professor Dr. Darin Waters, aims to look at future initiatives. 

The city says comments gathered from the Information, Sharing and Truth-Telling series are to be used by a yet-to-be-created reparations commission, which will determine how money in future city budgets set aside for reparations is spent.  During their last meeting, Asheville city councilmembers voted to allocate $2.1 million toward funding a reparations effort. Details about the joint city and county reparations commission are expected to be announced later this summer. 

The final Information, Sharing and Truth Telling presentation is Thurs., June 17 at 6pm at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. The live stream can be viewed here.