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House Hearing on DC Statehood: “Until statehood is achieved, the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement will remain incomplete”

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March 22, 2021

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press@51for51.org

House Hearing on DC Statehood: “Until statehood is achieved, the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement will remain incomplete”

National Momentum for DC Statehood Shines Through Hollow Republican Attacks

Washington, D.C. — Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on H.R. 51, the D.C. Statehood Admissions Act. D.C. veterans, civil rights leaders, and financial experts all spoke in support of enfranchising the more than 700,000 mostly Black and Brown residents of D.C. With momentum building, national outlets are placing Washingtonians front and center of the conversation: 51 for 51 lead organizer Jamal Holtz highlights the necessity for statehood in a new USA Today op-ed, as well as on the front page of the Washington Post, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and more.

“During this hearing, Republican Congressmen claimed that D.C. shouldn’t be a state because we don’t have car dealerships or landfills; these are the best arguments they can come up with in their desperate attempt to continue suppressing over 700,000 D.C. residents.” said Jamal Holtz, Lead Organizer of 51 for 51. “In response, Mayor Bowser and Congresswoman Norton said what we’ve always known — statehood is a racial justice issue. Americans see the writing on the wall — we have the country behind us, and we’re going to make D.C. the 51st state.”

“Republicans clung to their tired attacks that D.C. statehood is a power grab to deflect from the reality: giving full voting rights to over 700,000 Americans is the most urgent civil rights issue of our time. Their arguments are both brazenly blatant and thinly veiled racist attacks because they are afraid of admitting D.C. as the first plurality-Black state in the nation,” said Stasha Rhodes, Campaign Director of 51 for 51. “This hearing set the nation’s eyes on our fight for justice, and we can’t let anything stand in the way — including the Jim Crow relic known as the filibuster. It’s long past time to make D.C. the 51st state with 51 votes in the Senate.”

While Republicans were talking about car dealerships, statehood advocates were highlighting the racial justice and veteran’s rights imperatives of D.C. statehood:

“Until statehood is achieved, the efforts of the civil rights movement will remain incomplete,” said Wade Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Toward the end of the 19th century, Alabama Senator John Tyler Morgan argued that rather than grant political power to the District’s Black population, Congress should ‘deny the right of suffrage entirely to every human being in the District.’ He said it was necessary to ‘burn down the barn to get rid of the rats.’ More than 100 years later, this stain of racial voter suppression persists.” 

Statehood is also a veteran’s rights issue, with almost 30,000 veterans living in the District without representation in Congress. “We should not have to sacrifice without representation,” said Harry Wingo, D.C. veteran. “To the opponents of D.C. statehood I ask, ‘How can you ask veterans to keep bearing the burden of disenfranchisement when we have shouldered the burden of defending our country?”

Some more highlights from the conversation:

“Congress has two choices,” said Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton “It can continue to exercise undemocratic, autocratic authority over the American citizens who reside in our nation’s capital, treating them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as ‘aliens, not citizens, but subjects.’ Or it can live up to this nation’s promise and ideals, end taxation without representation and pass H.R. 51.”

“In the midst of our national reckoning on racism, for those who were quick to quote Dr. King and John Lewis, but obstruct things like the DC statehood, uplifting Black political power must be a part of the conversation,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “[About Senator Cotton’s objections to DC statehood:] That wasn’t a dog whistle — that was a bullhorn. His objection to statehood was based on the possibility of an African-American governor.”

“District residents are still not free,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Today, I come to urge this committee and this Congress to move beyond tired, nonfactual, and frankly, anti-democratic rhetoric and extend full democracy to the residents of the District of Columbia.”

“Adding D.C. as a state should not be about politics,” said House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney. “It is about equality and democracy. It is the responsibility of Congress to ensure that Americans are given their full rights demanded by the Constitution.”

“If you oppose D.C. statehood, you support taxation without representation,” said Congresswoman Rashida Talib. “It is shameful that anyone would claim to support democracy, freedom, and oppose statehood.”

“I’ve heard some of the most intellectually dishonest absurdities that I’ve ever been privileged to hear in terms of some of the rationale […] as to why there should not be statehood for the District of Columbia,” said Congressman Danny Davis. 

Republicans launched several disingenuous arguments, so here are some facts to set the record straight: 

  • Dr. Fitzroy Lee, Interim Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia, explained that D.C. is ready to be financially independent — D.C.’s AAA credit rating is higher than 32 other states. He also stated that only 25% of D.C.’s workforce is government employees. 
  • Congress has previously reduced the size of the federal district — Arlington and Alexandria both used to be part of D.C.
  • Republicans said the Founding Fathers didn’t want the federal district to be a state, but they certainly didn’t design this disenfranchisement. In Federalist Paper 43, James Madison wrote that citizens of the federal district should have “their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them” — far from our current reality. 

To speak with a representative of 51 for 51, please contact press@51for51.org 

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51 for 51 is a coalition of D.C.-based and national groups committed to equal representation for the over 700,000 D.C. residents who remain locked out of our democracy. The coalition of 20 progressive groups believe American citizens living in the District deserve a voice in Congress and control over their own local laws. Already, President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and Senators Warren, Markey, Gillibrand and Hickenlooper have endorsed 51 for 51’s proposed path to statehood. 

 

Additional Information

 

Website: https://www.51for51.org/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/51for51

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