Letter: Proposing Reparations for All


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 I am writing to propose that the Amherst Town Council appoint a commission to consider developing a women’s reparations program. In Amherst women have suffered systematic disenfranchisement, exclusion from educational and occupational opportunities, and other forms of discrimination. These injuries have persisted for centuries, down to recent years and even to the present. There is ample cause to consider compensation and reparations.

For example, although African-American men were granted the right to vote in 1865, women were not enfranchised until 1920, more than a half-century later. Since participation in Town Meeting was limited to registered voters, Amherst was complicit in this denial to women of their political rights. The current gender imbalance in favor of women throughout the town’s elected offices demonstrates how severely this disenfranchisement had previously limited women’s opportunities

Educational access and opportunities were also closed to women. Amherst College, which was founded in 1821, graduated its first African-American male student in 1826, after only five years.  Women had to wait for access to Amherst College classes until 1975, more than a century and a half later. Similarly, women were excluded from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst until 1892. Women have also been excluded from leadership positions in public life. For example, Amherst College appointed its first woman president only in 2011; the U. of Mass. only in 1995 (and then merely on an interim basis).

Certainly, all Amherst women throughout these decades of suppression have suffered from the unavailability of visible role models in leadership positions. Undoubtedly, men have also been retarded in their emotional and intellectual development by the ongoing and unquestioned imbalance and injustice in gender roles. All genders suffered injury.  For that reason, the proposed Commission, in developing the scope of a women’s reparation program, might wish to consider an inclusive definition of eligibility, extending the possibility of reparations to all Amherst residents who can prove their descent from a female ancestor.

Robert Repetto

Robert Repetto is a resident of Amherst.

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