Why residents say making Washington D.C. the 51st state is a ‘racial equity issue’ – Global News – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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What happens when you live in a national capital that is not part of any state or province, whose federal representatives cannot vote on legislation, and where local laws can be vetoed by lawmakers from other parts of the country?

That’s the reality still faced by over 712,000 Americans — nearly half of whom are Black — simply by residing in Washington, D.C.

Democrats and local activists are trying to change that by making the District of Columbia the 51st state in the union — a fight that is now closer to becoming reality than ever before.

“It’s a human rights issue,” lifelong D.C. resident and political organizer Ty Hobson Powell told Global News. “But it’s also a racial equity issue, and that’s supported by the history (of the district).”

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The House of Representatives voted late last month to advance legislation on statehood for the second time in less than a year. Last summer, the bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate when leaders refused to bring it up for a vote.

With Democrats now controlling the Senate, the issue is set to finally face one last hurdle, though the bill’s passage remains a tall order.

“It’s a pretty big oversight that’s long past the point where it should have been dealt with,” said Matthew Lebo, chair of the department of political science at Western University.

Here’s how D.C. got to this point, and why the debate over statehood matters.

Why is Washington D.C. different?

The District of Columbia sits on the Potomac River between the states of Maryland and Virginia, both of which ceded land to create the district soon after the country’s founding.

The Constitution granted Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the District after James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers, argued that the nation’s capital must be independent to preserve its safety. It was also argued that having the capital within an existing state would give that state undue influence over the federal government.

That “exclusive jurisdiction” meant Congress had ultimate authority over the district’s affairs, including its laws and how the city was run.

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Even as the city took steps toward self-government — culminating in the 1973 Home Rule Act that provided for an elected mayor and council — Congress was still effectively in


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