Washington D.C. is not a state, so the 700,000 Americans who live in the City lack equal representation compared to their neighbors across the country. D.C. residents do not have a voting representative in the House and have no representation in the Senate at all. The current makeup of our Senate is biased towards white, rural areas. Consider that the 580,000 people living in Wyoming are represented by the same number of Senators as the 5.8 million people living in Colorado and the 40 million people living in California.
Despite overwhelming support in D.C. for statehood, the federal government has so far refused to grant full representation to D.C. residents. The reasons for disenfranchising the District of Columbia are pernicious. D.C. is a historically Black city and Black people still make up just under 50 percent of the population. President Lincoln signed a bill into law that abolished slavery in D.C. a full nine months before his national Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, so the District quickly became a popular place for recently-freed Black people and escaped slaves to go, find work, and settle. However, during Reconstruction, racist white politicians were loath to give recently-enfranchised Black men more political power, a trend that’s continued to this day. As recently as the 1960s, the Southern chairman of the House committee in charge of D.C. oversight sent a truckload of watermelons to the city’s Black mayor after the District submitted its annual budget to Congress.
Building a democracy that works for the people starts with D.C. statehood. It is an issue of racial justice as well as one of preserving democracy. If D.C. is granted statehood, it would be the only state in the nation to have a plurality of Black residents. Further, the addition of two new senators from an urban area would start to shift the Senate from entrenched minority control by conservative states with relatively small populations to represent the majority of people in the United States.