Before retiring to Green Valley, I lived in the District of Columbia for over 30 years. I have often been frustrated by people conflating DC individuals and families with the president, Congress and the rest of official Washington.
My friends and former neighbors in DC have lives, families and struggles like those of my current friends and neighbors in Arizona. Like other Americans, DC residents send their children to school, work, play and pay federal taxes
Unlike the rest of the more than 331 million people living in the United States, however, DC residents have no representation in our government!
Here in Arizona, I’m represented by a governor, senators and a member of Congress.The DC community of 705,000 people — a larger population than that of either Vermont or Wyoming — has no voting representatives in Congress. For this reason, the official license plates for DC accurately read “Taxation without Representation.”
Recent events highlight how this inequity plays out economically and politically: First, because it’s not a state, DC got just over $700 per resident under the CARES Act to cope with COVID-19, less than half of what states received. Second, when DC residents protested against police brutality, the White House ordered a violent reaction and DC’s mayor was powerless to stop it. Shockingly, it became clear that the reason for ordering troops to attack peaceful demonstrators was for President Trump to hold up a Bible for the cameras in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, a historic edifice he was using as a backdrop to a photo op he was seizing without any prior communication with the church staff or parishioners.
Sadly, the history of failing to admit DC as a state has likely been influenced, if not driven, by racial discrimination. DC’s population is 46 percent Black, a larger share than any state; many historians believe this is the reason it was not admitted as a state a century or more ago.
DC residents should have the same rights as Americans in the 50 states, and DC statehood is the way to achieve that equality. The House of Representatives last month voted to end this longstanding injustice. The bill would set aside a small amount of land for the operations of the federal government, as required in the Constitution. It would also remedy a present-day constitutional problem, which is that DC residents are not afforded the equal protections under the law guaranteed by the 14th amendment. All three Tucson-area representatives, Raъl Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick and Tom O’Halleran, have backed this bill.
The DC statehood bill is gaining momentum in the Senate. Arizona veterans are standing with DC’s 32,000 veterans. I hope that Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally will support the bill and stand up for democracy and equality for all Americans. It’s truly time to make obsolete the logo on those DC plates!
Miriam Burt lives in Green Valley.