A First Step: Mayor of Charlotte, N.C. Acknowledges City’s Role in Systemic Racism

It’s been more than 60 years since the Charlotte City Council voted to raze Brooklyn, a prominent Black neighborhood in North Carolina, as part of a “slum-clearance” program. The community was the center of home and work for hundreds of Black families who were prevented from living in other parts of the city by redlining and racism. Due to the program, many of the families were displaced.

Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Vi Lyles recently acknowledged how the city has long “impeded the stability, the well-being and progress” of Black residents, and issued a public apology, according to the Herald-Mail Media. She read the apology during a City Council meeting last week. 

“I acknowledge the history and complexities of systemic racism and our city government’s role in perpetuating those systems,” Lyles read from a statement. However, Lyles could not point to any new programs or policies to come from the apology, according to the Herald-Mail.

Related: Understanding White Privilege and Being an Ally to the Black Community

Restorative Justice CLT, a community and justice advocacy organization, had previously asked the city for the apology and for more investment in Black communities.

“Some people didn’t see an apology was needed,” the Rev. Willie Keaton, chair of the organization and pastor at Mount Olive Presbyterian Church, told the publication. “They didn’t even see having this discussion was needed. But the more you hear the stories, you realize that there was an unresolved trauma there that needed to be addressed.”

Keaton added that the apology is simply a first step toward action to address the outcomes of system racism. “There needs to be some restitution for the opportunity that was taken, the land that was taken, the businesses that were destroyed,” he told the Herald-Media. “Restorative justice is appropriate in this context because what Charlotte has done to African Americans in many ways is criminal and immoral.”

Restorative Justice CLT is now calling for plans to redevelop 17 acres that were once part of Brooklyn to include affordable housing and guaranteed space for former Brooklyn residents or their descendants. Also, the organization is working to raise a $20 million endowment to support projects that benefit the community.


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