Earlier this year, the actor Danny Glover joined author Ta-Nehisi Coates for a Capitol Hill hearing on slavery reparations. That was a historic milestone in the fight for a federal commission to study how America could best make amends for slavery.
But as is the case on so many issues, local officials are far ahead of Washington politicians on reparations.
And so Glover was eager to testify on reparations again this week — this time in support of a municipal policy that’s actually about to go into force.
In front of an overflowing crowd in Evanston, Illinois, Glover lent his star power to promote a new 3 percent tax on marijuana sales that will be used as a form of reparations to lift up the Chicago suburb’s black residents.
“This is the most intense conversation, I believe, that we’re going to have in the 21st century, right here — reparations,” Glover told the audience. He described the town’s reparations fund as “a remarkable step.”
Evanston’s innovative policy became possible after the Illinois state legislature legalized recreational marijuana this past June. The state was not the first to take this step — it follows 10 other states and the District of Columbia (along with U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands)
But Illinois was the first state where legalization resulted from a legislative process rather than through a direct ballot initiative. Earlier states had to use direct voter initiatives since politicians were too frightened to stick their necks out on this issue, for fear they’d appear “soft on drugs.”
Danny Glover testifying on slavery reparations before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on June 19, 2019. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)