Juneteenth celebrates freedom. But what is freedom to an American without the full rights of citizenship? The +700,000 residents of DC are still waiting for an answer.
- Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on S. 475, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, June 16, 2021
- “Today’s bill making Juneteenth, when the last slaves got word that slavery had ended, a federal holiday has unique meaning for the District of Columbia because the slaves here were the first, not the last, to be freed. The reason, of course, is that the District was and is a federally controlled jurisdiction. The District celebrates the emancipation of slaves here on April 16 every year.
- Juneteenth should remind Congress that it’s time for the first to be freed to finally become equal to other Americans. The House understands that with its passage of the D.C. statehood bill. So does the Senate, with a hearing on our D.C. statehood bill scheduled for next Tuesday, June 22.
- With the President, the House, and the Senate all believing that the residents of their nation’s capital should in every way be equal to other Americans, we rejoice this Juneteenth knowing that we are close to adding the 51st star to the flag.”
- From Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office – Emancipation.dc.gov
- “One result of the intense struggle over slavery was the DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, passed by the Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The act ended slavery in Washington, DC, freed 3,100 individuals, reimbursed those who had legally owned them and offered the newly freed women and men money to emigrate. It is this legislation, and the courage and struggle of those who fought to make it a reality that we commemorate every April 16, DC Emancipation Day.
- Though the Compensated Emancipation Act was an important legal and symbolic victory, it was part of a larger struggle over the meaning and practice of freedom and citizenship. These two words continue to be central to what it means to be a participating member of society. We invite you to think about what these concepts have meant in the past and what they mean to you today...”
- Statement by then-Rep. Mike Pence in 2007:
- “The fact that more than half a million Americans live in the District of Columbia and are denied a single voting representative in Congress is clearly a historic wrong, and justice demands that it be addressed.”
On Tuesday, June 22, the issue of DC statehood will appear before the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. During the House Oversight Committee hearing in April, GOP representatives presented such bizarre requirements for statehood on live TV, we despaired for the teaching of American civics. Assuming a repeat from the Senate’s own GOP fabulists, you may want to create your BINGO cards now with the help of “6 collossally Stupid Arguments against DC Statehood” and or other resources provided below. Or use ours.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] to [thank Rep./Sen. [___] for being/ask Rep./Sen. [___] to become] a cosponsor of Sen. – S.51 – Washington, D.C. Admission Act and ending this example of racial injustice in the very heart of our nation. Freedom without full rights, including taxation without representation, is not true citizenship. I’m joining Rep. Holmes, Mayor Bowser and 2007’s version of Mike Pence in recommending the immediate correction of this historic wrong.
Additional script for Senators: I’m also requesting that Sen. [___] drop the filibuster for this bill, as there is no legitimate reason to deny full citizenship to 700,000 Americans citizens other than racism and partisanship, which we the people will no longer stand for.
Feel free to email your senators over the weekend and follow up with a call.
- Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
- and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553,
LA (310) 231-4494,SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109,SF (415) 981-9369 , SD (619) 239-3884
- Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com
More Actions to do!
- Tweet at your members of Congress and demand they support D.C. statehood.
- Record a video and let your members of Congress know why D.C. statehood is important to you.
- Write a letter to the editor on why D.C. statehood is important for democracy reform.
- Listen to and share our ‘51 Songs for the 51st State’ Spotify playlist to get you ready for the hearing!
The House hearing on DC Statehood
Now you can listen to racist dogwhistles from the GOP legislators here. Despite their nonsense, the House passed their version – H.R. 51, on 4/22/22, on a completely partisan vote of 216 to 208.
Seriously… at today’s hearing, a GOP legislator was actually recorded saying that wealth is only created by “manufacturing, agriculture and mining,” a huge surprise for our last president, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos. (Also, there are 2 mines recorded in DC.) Another went on the record stating that DC can’t be a state because it doesn’t have an airport, and that states have to be admitted in pairs, without once mentioning those pairs consisted of “free states” vs. “slave states.”
How does representation work in DC now for its own residents?
Very enlightening interview with the D.C.’s shadow legislator – Sen. Paul Strauss.)
The residents of what is now the District of Columbia lost their full democratic rights to self-government and a government of, by and for the people over 221 years ago. Ever since then, they have been demanding that Congress restore the full rights of American citizenship. Now, with future insurrectionists planning their next attacks, being without full rights is not just unjust. It’s also dangerous.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “We must get statehood on the President’s desk within the first 100 days of the 117th Congress. Congress must immediately transfer command of the District of Columbia National Guard from the President of the United States and put it squarely under the command and control of the District of Columbia.”
Asked how she would have responded to the riot had she been a governor instead of a mayor, Bowser said, “We would not be restricted in any way for how to deploy the Guard, so we wouldn’t have to clear a deployment plan with the secretary of the Army.”
Beyond 200+ years of Jim Crow disenfranchisement of rights, including being taxed without representation, (an issue “real” patriots should be concerned about), the recent riots clarified why continuing to deny statehood to DC. is dangerous. Though larger in population than two states and almost 60 countries, D.C., as a city, lacks a governor with the ability to call up the D.C. National Guard, leaving that power with the federal government. So while our president was mesmerized by the televised spectacle of real-time insurrection in his name, the Capitol Police force was overwhelmed, and a city with over 712,000 people was left helpless for three hours as riots carried out.
What is it like to live in DC without representation?
More detailed history of the racism genesis of Washington DC unconstitutional present state.
(Washington Post – “The battle against D.C. statehood is rooted in anti-Black racism) But why are the District’s more than 700,000 residents denied these basic elements of democracy in the first place? The reason is rooted in the United States’ long history of anti-Black racism and fear of Black political power.
As Congress debates the District’s fate, it’s valuable to revisit the history of the capital’s “taxation without representation,” which exposes this odious reality. Making this history clear provides new impetus for D.C. statehood and invites deep scrutiny of arguments made against this basic freedom.
When the federal government moved to D.C. in 1800, Congress controlled the capital, but D.C. residents still had some local autonomy and elections. Then, after the Civil War, Congress passed legislation granting African American men the vote, even before the 15th Amendment. In the 1868 D.C. mayoral election, nearly 50 percent of registered voters were Black men. They were instrumental in electing local leaders who pushed school integration and passed anti-discrimination civil rights laws.
This period of Black suffrage and political power was short-lived, however. In 1874, Congress installed a Board of Commissioners, composed of three appointed leaders, to run the D.C. municipal government. Most White Washingtonians supported the plan, in part because Congress would pay 50 percent of D.C.’s budget. They were also willing to give up their access to the vote so Black people would no longer have political power in D.C. The Organic Act of 1878, part of the compromise that officially ended Reconstruction, made the commissioner structure permanent, and all D.C. residents lost the vote for nearly 100 years.
Under this system, Congress exercised immense power over D.C., which allowed Southern segregationists to enforce their racial politics in the capital. Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-Miss.), for example, declared that he wanted to be on the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia so he “could keep Washington a segregated city.” Bilbo and his Southern colleagues were so successful that one 1940s commentator said the former Confederacy clutched D.C. as a “helpless pawn” and “held it as the capital of white supremacy…
…Congress’s power over D.C. grew considerably when Congress created the District of Columbia Financial Control Board and took control of the city’s finances in 1995. In 1997, Congress expanded its power further as it took control of the city’s debts, courts, prisons and elements of its entitlement programs. To this day, D.C. is still barred from going into debt on any project that is not a capital or economic development program, and all budgets must be certified as balanced by an appointed chief financial officer. The House Oversight Committee approves the D.C. budget, reviews the District’s legislation and can even overturn its laws.
Members of Congress have exploited this power to override the democratic will of Washingtonians and enforce their own ideologies. For example, during his tenure as the chairman of the Oversight Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) threatened to launch an investigation if D.C. used its tax dollars to defend undocumented immigrants from deportation. Since D.C. residents passed a referendum to legalize marijuana in 2014, members of Congress have used their control over D.C.’s budget and affairs to continually prevent the legalization of marijuana sales.
This staggering lack of democracy in the nation’s capital would not persist but for the widespread desire to limit Black political power. History exposes the racism that keeps Congress firmly in control of D.C. Ending local elections in 1878 came in response to rising Black political power. Members of Congress and the public made it clear in the mid-20th century that the core reason they opposed democratic rule in D.C. was anti-Black racism. And it remains true today: The continued power of Congress over the District’s affairs is rooted in this same fear of Black power and racist belief that a majority-non-White populace is incapable of independently governing itself...”
RESOURCES: Inspiration, history and more.
- Statehood.dc.gov – This is the DC Statehood website maintained by the Government fo the District of Columbia.
- (DCstatehooodyeswecan.org) Timeline – 221 Years of the District of Columbia’s Efforts to Restore Self-Government
- League of Women Voters – DC: This site includes a DC Statehood Toolkit and common FAQ’s on statehood, like “Wouldn’t it make more sense for DC to join neighboring Maryland or Virginia?” It also has a map, for those worried we’d have move federal buildings to make this work. Seriously.
- MAPS OF DC AS A STATE: For those who want to see maps of this new state, here are some options. (statehooddc)(League of Women Voters – DC) (Greater Washington)
- The Tennessee Plan for Statehood. Under the Tennessee Plan, the prospective state’s electorate votes on statehood and ratifies a constitution, without an enabling act, and then uses this as a basis to petition Congress for admission. This approach was pioneered by Tennessee in 1796 and used by Michigan, Iowa, California, Oregon, Kansas, and Alaska to gain admission to the Union. DC voters opted to satisfy the following four conditions for Statehood prior to filing an enabling act with Congress:
- Residents affirmed the desire to become a state, and 86% of voters supported the Washington, DC Admission Act.
- Ratified a State Constitution.
- Established new state boundaries, which would preserve a smaller federal district required by the Constitution (see image and PDF below)
- Committed to a republican form of government that is representative, with elected officials including the election of United States Senators and Representatives on equal footing with the other states in the Union.
- Under the Tennessee Plan a bill must pass the US House of Representatives and US Senate and then must be signed by the President of the United States.
RESOURCES: Racist arguments/history against DC statehood.
- (Think) The D.C. statehood fight is part of an ugly effort to disenfranchise Black and brown people. This article discusses the similar racist issues that accompanied the entry of Hawaii as our 50th state.
- New Republic.com – “The racist roots of DC Statehood.“ This article covers the contribution of James Shepherd Pike, who in 1874, wrote a toxic diatribe called “The Prostrate State: South Carolina under Negro Government,” which is the racist beating heart behind the GOP’s arguments against statehood today.
- Slate: “Republican Arguments Against D.C. Statehood Aren’t Getting Any Newer – or Any Less Racist.”
- History.com: “Why isn’t Washington D.C. a State?“ Nice, clear explanation of how voting rights in the District evolved, or devolved, in this case. “During Reconstruction, black Americans made up about a third of D.C.’s population. Once black men won the right to vote in local D.C. elections in 1867, they quickly established themselves in the city’s local government. Congress responded by dismantling that government through new laws in 1871 and 1874 that gave the president—whom D.C. residents still couldn’t vote for—the sole power to appoint D.C. leaders.“
- Slate: “The Case Against D.C. Statehood Hasn’t Changed Since Marion Barry.“ Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton explains that, “Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded working-class state.” (Dogwhistle translation: white people who vote GOP!) Note to Sen. Cotton: The Constitution mandates neither citizen occupations nor “class” as prerequirements to statehood. (In 2019, approximately 15 thousand D.C. residents were involved in “Mining, Logging and Construction” and 1300 in “Manufacturing.”) But as we saw with the Sedition Caucus, the Constitution is troublesome for the GOP.
RESOURCES: 10 common arguments against DC statehood.
(Iowa Capital Dispatch) “The residents’ desire to become a state, with the full rights and representation, is not about party. It is about equality and having a voice. It is about not feeling less than their fellow Americans. It is about self-determination and identity. For our D.C. veterans, and for the families of our fallen heroes, it is about a star on the flag they cherish and for which they gave so much. It is about truly being a part of the United States of America.
- D.C. statehood is not a power grab by Democrats. This argument is the biggest red herring of all. Yes, D.C. would get two voting senators and one voting representative, and they would be Democrats at this time. However, in the past 10 years only six legislative votes in the Senate were decided by three or less. There have been only two occasions in which adding two votes to either Yea or Nay would have changed the outcome: Senate Resolution 21 on Sept. 25, 2019 and Senate Bill 627 on July 31, 2011. Senate confirmations for Supreme Court justices also would not have been greatly affected. Since 1986, the confirmation of Bret Kavanaugh is the only one that may have changed if both additional senators did not vote to confirm.
- Giving two senators to D.C. would not dilute or take away power of another state. Statehood for D.C. is about equality and expanding democracy. The balance of power only changes because the will of the people who elect officials to represent them changes. The total number of senators would go up to 102, just as it went up so many times since our country was founded with the original 13 states, 26 senators and 59 representatives. Growth as a country is a good thing. I’m glad our ancestors did not feel 13 was a good number and stop there. The flag has been updated many times and if you are worried about what a 51-star flag would look like, check it out!
- The founders set up D.C. the way they did for a reason, but things have changed. It wasn’t until the year 1801 people living D.C. were no longer considered citizens of either Maryland or Virginia and lost their representation. In 1788, Alexander Hamilton was concerned about the disenfranchisement of the people and proposed an amendment that would give voting rights and representation back to D.C. when the district reached a certain size, but it was defeated. In 1800, there were only 8,144 people living in Washington, D.C., and today there are over 700,000. As our country has grown, we have made changes to be inclusive, so why are we excluding the people who live in our nation’s capital?
- Our founders did not want any state having undue influence or control over our nation’s capital. No one is trying to change this. H.R. 51, passed in the U.S. House on June 26, 2020, maintains the district as required by the Constitution, it just reduces the area. It is not the first time it has been reduced. In 1846, land was receded back to Virginia, reducing the district’s size. The Constitution does not call for a minimum size for the federal district, but sets a maximum “not exceeding ten miles square.” As to influence and control, can’t the same arguments be made now about Maryland and Virginia that border the nation’s capital? I do not recall either state taking over our country. The logistics of joining the residential and commercial area of D.C. with another state would be challenging to say the least. The combining of infrastructure, government, and laws, not to mention the cost, bureaucracy and red tape involved would take years to accomplish. Besides, D.C. has its own identity, history and spirit that should not be lost by merging with another.
- A 2019 Gallup poll showed a majority of Americans are against D.C. statehood, but … the poorly worded question asked was “Would you favor or oppose making Washington, D.C., a separate state?” Not surprisingly, with so little information and a lack of understanding of the issues and solutions surrounding this topic by the average American, two-thirds of respondents opposed D.C. statehood. My personal experience when I worked a week-long event across Iowa, with tens of thousands of people from all over the country, was that an amazing number of people were uninformed. A few could not get past the party divisiveness but many did. There were a lot of people we talked with who did either already support or decided to support D.C. Statehood and signed our national and/or state petitions. In all, 34 states were represented in the signatures we received over that week, including Democrats, independents and Republicans. What was clear is a nationwide educational campaign will have a tremendous impact in making giving statehood to the residential and commercial areas of D.C.
- D.C. is not too full of “crime, corruption and dysfunction” to be allowed to be a state. If that were the litmus test for statehood, there are several states in danger of being demoted to territories. The federal government is in charge, so Congress should either clean it up or get out of they way and let D.C. run itself as a true state.
- (WAPO) Republicans have argued the city is too corrupt and too financially dependent on the federal government to be the 51st state — although the former argument does not have any bearing on voting rights elsewhere in the country, and D.C. residents pay the among the most federal income taxes per capita in the nation.
- It is not unconstitutional to make D.C. a state and it can be done without a constitutional amendment. Every state added to the Union after the original 13 has been done the same way D.C. would. Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution allows for the admission of new states by an act of Congress. There would still be a federally controlled district as required by the Constitution.
- D.C. is not too small to be a state. It will be the smallest geographically. However, it has a greater population than Wyoming or Vermont, and almost as many people as North Dakota or Alaska. Should those small states give up their status and representation? Nope.
- (From 6 collossally Stupid Arguments against DC Statehood) “Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks took issue with the size of DC, saying “I will never vote to give a single, middling-size city the same power as one of America’s 50 states,” adding there are a number of cities in Alabama about the same size as DC that don’t qualify for statehood. With a population of roughly 700,000 people, DC has more citizens than either Vermont or Wyoming. DC is the 20th most populous city in the country, while Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, comes in at 109th with a population of roughly 200,000 people“
- District residents should not have to move or rejoin Maryland. It’s their home. Should the colonists have just said, “Well, we don’t like being taxed without representation so we all better move?” If so, we would be living in a much different country today. This argument is also out of touch with reality. Putting aside the emotional cost, there is a financial barrier to moving.
- (From 6 collossally Stupid Arguments against DC Statehood) “North Carolina Rep. Greg Murphy said DC land not controlled by the federal government should just be returned to the state whence it came, giving residents the right to vote as Maryland citizens. A nice thought, except for the fact that Maryland hasn’t consented to such a plan…Maryland Rep. Andy Harris gave an impassioned speech in defense of his state, saying “The nerve of hundreds of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle thinking it’s [Congress’] land, it’s Maryland’s land!” Um, no. When Maryland ceded its land to create the capital, it formally transferred control of that land to the federal government.
- Wamu.org: “Republican Lawmakers Introduce Three Bills to Block or Limit D.C. Statehood.” Two of the bills discussed, H.R. 8539 and H.R. 8516, call for D.C. to retrocede to Maryland, which residents have refused to do for 200 years. A third bill, H.J.Res. 97, sponsor, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) proposes amending the U.S. Constitution to block the expansion of the U.S. Senate beyond 100 members, which ignores the requirement in Article V of the Constitution ‘that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.’”
- Are you thinking “it doesn’t affect me, why should I care?” This IS important. It is worth noting here that because D.C. is not considered a state, it received a fraction of what states did in COVID-19 assistance, including states with less population. It has been said, “Show me your budget and I’ll show you what you care about.” Do we care so little for the people of D.C. and our nation’s capital that we would allow this blatant discrimination?
- United we stand, divided we fall. It is a mantra of our great nation, but we are not living up to it. For many around the world, the United States is a beacon of hope and democracy, yet we are the only democratic nation that denies both voting rights in the legislature and the right to self-governance to the people of our nation’s capital. We are stronger together and our passion for spreading democracy around the world should surely apply to our own country and fellow Americans.
- More than 700,000 Americans are excluded from our democracy. And why? Is it because they are less than other Americans; because they vote for the wrong party; because they live in the wrong place; because they don’t have the right industry or agriculture; because they’re too small; because of the color of their skin; because 50 is a nice round number; because we can’t be bothered to care; because the founders would want us to continue to exclude such a large portion of our population from the democracy they fought and died to give us; because we are incapable of fixing it; or maybe because it’s just not a priority? Do you believe any of those? Together we can fix it, and it is time!”
- DC isn’t financially prepared for statehood (From 6 collossally Stupid Arguments against DC Statehood) Georgia Rep. Jody Hice said “there’s nobody who’s a greater supporter of state’s rights than I am,” but said DC was “not prepared financially” to “shoulder the burden of statehood,” citing a time when Congress had to bail out DC in the 1990’s. However, a lot has changed since then. In 2018, DC received a triple A credit rating, the highest rating possible. Meanwhile, Illinoisans still get to enjoy statehood despite its credit rating hovering just above “junk” status.
- DC doesn’t have a logging or mining industry (From 6 collossally Stupid Arguments against DC Statehood) “Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman said DC “is not like any state out there,” as it doesn’t have “agriculture, manufacturing, logging or mining” industries. He said if DC became a state, representatives would spend “almost all their time trying to get money for the city.” Well…yes. DC definitely has a brain-based economy, but the top three industries of Connecticut are “finance, insurance, and real estate” and its citizens still get a vote. And any representative not trying to get the maximum possible federal funding for their constituents isn’t really doing their job.“
(More detailed read from Indivisible here.) “American democracy is built on the promise that all people should have a say in our federal government through elected representatives who can then create and execute laws on behalf of the people. However, that is not the case for the 700,000 Americans who live in the District of Columbia, who lack equal voting rights compared to their neighbors across the country. In fact, D.C. residents lack a voting representative in the House and have no representation in the Senate at all. Making D.C. the 51st state would go a long way towards making the legislative branch more representative of the country as a whole.
In addition to being a critical democracy reform, D.C. statehood is also a racial justice issue. Historically, racist politicians have prevented D.C. from becoming a state to prevent D.C.’s Black residents from building political power, from the days of the Emancipation Proclamation to the present. D.C. has long been a majority Black city, and the current population is still made up by a majority of Black people and people of color. If D.C. is granted statehood, it will be the only state in the nation to have a plurality of Black residents.
The District’s lone representative in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (who has no vote on the House floor), is already preparing her D.C. statehood bill for introduction in the 117th Congress. In the 116th Congress, Congresswoman Norton broke the record for original cosponsors with 155 Democrats signed on, and we need to help her break that record again. It is critically important to get every single Democrat signed on as an original cosponsor of the D.C. statehood bill. If Democrats care about fixing our democracy and ensuring racial justice for all, then they must support statehood for D.C.”
In the news…
- (Washingtonian) There Sure Are a Lot of Weird Arguments Against DC Statehood in Congress Today: A hearing in Congress raises many fanciful tests for full constitutional rights.
- (The Diggings) Mining In District Of Columbia: District Of Columbia has 2 records of mines listed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
- (Mother Jones) The 3 Worst Arguments That Republicans Made Against DC Statehood: Too many yard signs. Not enough car dealerships.
- (The Atlantic) There Once Was a Republican Fight for D.C. Statehood