The House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on Monday to consider D.C. statehood. H.R. 51, Washington, D.C. Reform Act, was introduced by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on January 4, 2021, but the push for D.C. statehood has been a long fight. Monday’s hearing was no different. The fight against D.C. statehood is rooted in anti-Black racism, and there is no way around it.
Despite heavy Republican pushback, the bill currently has 227 co-sponsors, up from the original 155. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was a key pro-statehood witness during the trial. Bowser faced a flurry of micro-aggressions and comments mocking her work from Republicans, but she held the line and refused to back down.
In a recent tweet, Bowser said, “They say DC is too small, or our economy is not diverse enough. Even though we’re bigger by population than two states and pay more per capita than any other state; we pay more in total federal taxes than 22 states.”
Republicans object to D.C. statehood
At one point, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) attempted to support his stance against D.C. statehood by arguing “DC would be the only state — the only state — without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city and without a landfill.” This is not true. There are car dealerships in Washington D.C., including a Tesla showroom. It’s odd to include this note, but the presence of car dealerships is not constitutionally mandated for the adoption of states into the Union.
Bowser clashed with House Republicans for a significant amount of the four-hour hearing due to an endless stream of arguments from the anti-statehood representatives. During the hearing, House Republicans argued the Founding Fathers never wanted statehood for D.C. or that D.C. should be “re-absorbed” by Maryland. Although, neither D.C. or Maryland officials support this proposal.
More than 700,000 Americans live in Washington D.C., and the district has a special history in the Black Suffrage movement. African American men secured the right to vote following the Civil War. Black men accounted for 50% of registered voters in the 1868 D.C. mayoral race. The Black vote was powerful, which unleashed a 19th century version of a ‘Whitelash’. Congress and White Washingtonians moved to install an appointed Board of Commissioners to control the district’s city government. City government stayed under Congressional rule for nearly 100 years.
D.C. statehood is about self-governance
Unapologetically racist arguments kept Washingtonians from governing themselves for nearly a century. White supremacists were afraid of Black political power, and they still are. Only 11 of 100 U.S. senators belong to an ethic or minority group. And after former U.S. Senator Kamala Harris became Vice-President Kamala Harris, there are no Black women serving in the Senate.
H.R. 51 faces a tough fight in the Senate. No Republican senator (or House representative) supports the bill. Many also expect Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Az.) to continue their trend of voting to maintain White supremacy in America.