PHOTO: CAROLINE BREHMAN/ZUMA PRESS
Recently, a passed the House and is headed to the Senate that would allow residential and commercial areas of the District of Columbia to become the nation’s 51st state – minus federal buildings, including the Capitol, White House, Supreme Court, monuments, etc. The hesitation to make such a historic change to the fabric of the country appears to be halted by two factors:
1.) The creation of one lone representative in the House and two additional Senate seats (most likely to be held by Democrats upon future election).
2.) The fear of Black political power rooted in a lengthy history of anti-Black racism.
After the Civil War, Congress passed legislation granting African American men the vote, even before the 15th Amendment which was followed by a short-lived shift in political power for the Black community in Washington D.C. Allowing Washingtonians to elect their leaders and govern themselves, also known as Home Rule, has been sought after since 1874 when Congress installed a Board of Commissioners, composed of three appointed leaders, to run the D.C. municipal government. However, white Washingtonians opted to allow appointed government was best opposed to the Negroes taking over the city. To date, Congress maintains the power to overturn local laws and exercises greater oversight of Washington D.C., more power than exists for any U.S. state. The District's elected government exists at the pleasure of Congress with the possibility of revocation at any given time.
Statehood for D.C. can swing both political and economic power back into the hands of Black residents and Black business owners. D.C. Statehood has the potential to reverse the exploitation of power enacted by members of Congress where it has overridden the democratic desires of Washingtonians and often enforce their own ideologies. Economically, greater political power can lead to greater access to the privilege of subsidies and tax abatements. These incentives are lucrative and are usually offered to major corporations coming from outside of the District, setting up shop in the District, as a reward for “investing in the local economy”, for example, by creating a certain amount of affordable housing units or employing a certain number of D.C. residents. These types of benefits may be the answer to Black entrepreneurs who are struggling under the weight of the rising costs associated with renting retail space, the heavy burden of taxation, and the fight against gentrification.
Why does this matter to anyone living outside of Washington D.C.? This is a huge opportunity to set a precedent with the potential to impact Black communities throughout the nation. With all eyes on D.C., statehood would mean other municipalities could model more uniform support for small businesses that are culturally relevant serving as community-serving institutions that also create more jobs.
Due to displacement caused by gentrification, D.C.’s Black population is on the decline. However, over 300,000 anchored Black residents including business owners deserve to have representation in Congress. That will not happen without the district becoming a state. Focusing on tax incentives for local businesses, instead of on mega-companies like Amazon and Living Social (before it was bought by Groupon), is likely to keep dollars circulating within communities and benefit long-standing residents.
Below are amazing Washington D.C. Businesses that could greatly benefit from #DCStatehood. Consider supporting them with a purchase, a review, and a referral as they fight for democracy.
The Fresh Food Factory
Pole Pressure DC
Lady Clipper Barber Shop
The Saint James Collection
Janet & Jo.
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