The first Black woman elected to lead Charlotte’s government has apologized for decades of city policies that now contribute to racial inequity — policies implemented by her White predecessors.
Reading from a statement at Monday’s City Council meeting, Lyles called Charlotte’s history “a tale of two cities” with “great prosperity and great poverty.”
Why it matters: The apology comes as America wrestles anew with its history of bigotry and racial discrimination. In a growing number of cities, including mountain town of Asheville, elected leaders have passed resolutions to provide “reparations” to Black communities hurt by racist policies.
Those “reparations” do not include payments to individuals.
In addressing Charlotte’s past, Lyles said many of the disparities we see today are rooted in city policies that burdened entire Black communities. She especially mentioned the neighborhood of Brooklyn, which was wiped off the map and its residents dispersed during the 1960s era of urban renewal.
Lyles said the razing of Brooklyn displaced nearly 10,000 residents, 216 Black-owned businesses and 11 houses of worship.
“African Americans in our city did not achieve upward mobility due to our history of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation and systemic discrimination of redlining, restrictive covenants, urban renewal,” she said. “Charlotte lives with the impact of those laws, policies and social determinants, resulting in health disparity, food insecurity, negative environmental impacts and the resulting trauma.”
She asked for the entire city to “work with us in this moment and this time to change the course of our city to move forward on social justice and equity.”
Lyles’ apology did not come in the form of an official resolution (a source tells QCity Metro that council members are not unanimously supportive of such a resolution), nor did it mention “reparations.” However, the mayor did emphasize the city’s commitment to addressing systemic issues that block upward mobility for Black residents.
Lyles’ apology follows ongoing talks with the group Restorative Justice CLT, which seeks to address the city’s wealth gap through policies that directly address past discrimination. The group is led by the Rev. Willie Keaton and is supported by Rabbi Judith Schindler and former Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
Restorative Justice CLT has asked that the city offer an official apology for past actions. Its members also have requested that special funds be set aside to address the lingering impacts of racial discrimination. The group has not used the word “reparations” in its requests.