Yesterday was April 17, the deadline for filing 2011 federal income taxes.
Most of the 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia filed their federal income tax returns before yesterday's deadline—and while we don't have data for 2011, the data for 2009 reveals that DC residents paid $3.6 billion in federal income taxes that year.
And yet, DC residents had to knock on Congressmembers' doors yesterday just to beg them to let us spend our own city tax money as we'd like—a perfectly representative anecdote for the basic civil rights being denied to 600,000 American citizens.
The word "representative" there is ironic, since we don't have any voting representation in Congress—only the nonvoting Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House, and bupkis in the Senate.
Taxation without representation... where have I heard that phrase before? Maybe that orange squiggly thing will remind me...
Ah, yes. Now I remember. There was a little skirmish fought between our ancestors and some chaps in red uniforms over that a few hundred years ago.
Modern Americans of all stripes acknowledge that the revolutionaries' cause was just—and that one of the chief offenses England was committing against their American colonists was that the English were taxing the Americans without giving the Americans any say in the central government.
It is doubly ironic, then, that such a condition is tolerated—even by many progressives—right in the very backyard of the American central government.
Washington, DC has about 601,000 residents—about the same number as Nashville, Tennessee, and 60,000 more than the state of Wyoming.
If the residents of the city of Nashville were told tomorrow that their city would no longer get representation in the House, and that their votes would no longer count toward Tennessee's Senate representation, the progressive movement would be up in arms. There wouldn't be a Democratic politician in the country who could get away with inaction on this issue; "what will you do to give the residents of Nashville their civil rights?" would be a litmus test for any politician who wanted progressive support.
If a bill were introduced in Congress to strip Wyoming of statehood and send it back to "territory" status without a representative and Senators, nobody here would blink an eye before calling their member of Congress and demanding unequivocally that they vote against that bill, despite the fact that Wyoming couldn't possibly disagree with progressives any more on just about every issue. Voting rights are voting rights.
And yet, a group of people whose population is equal to that of Nashville, and more than that of Wyoming, are being denied this civil right as I write this—with barely a peep of protest out of the progressive movements. MoveOn doesn't send out email blasts on our behalf, DFA barely acknowledges our existence, and even the Occupy movements that aren't actively telling us we aren't full Americans haven't made 600,000 people being denied the most basic civil rights a major issue (with the exception of Occupy DC, which obviously has some skin in the game).
So this is a callout diary: I'm calling out each and every person here who resides in the 50 enfranchised states. Think about how you would respond if Nashville were denied the right to Congressional representation, or if Wyoming were stripped of statehood.
If your response to the continuing disenfranchisement of DC isn't at least as energetic, at least as active, then you are doing nothing less than telling me and my 600,000 fellow residents of the nation's capital—a majority of whom are people of color—that we aren't really Americans, that we deserve to be second-class citizens.
If you're active in an Occupy movement, bring this up at the next GA and demand that DC statehood be a top-tier issue for your local Occupy group. If you're a member of MoveOn, DFA, or any of the other progressive issue groups, demand that they take action.
And if you'd make Nashville a litmus test for your vote for a Congressmember or Senator, then you owe it to the residents of DC to make our rights just as much a litmus test. Call your representative and Senators today and tell them that you'll accept no delay in their taking action on DC statehood.