Imagine if your city didn’t have representation in Congress. There would be no one protecting and representing your interests in federal politics, even though everyone in the rest of the entire country had Senators and Representatives.
What if, after decades of battles, when a bill that would finally grant you a fraction of representation is about to pass, they tell you that the only way you can get it is to change the gun laws that your city created to protect your community, even though the two issues have nothing to do with one another?
What if at the same time, the Justice Department was challenging whether or not it was even legal for you to have representation?
The only place that this ridiculous, dysfunctional situation would occur is in our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C.
Two weeks ago, the DC Voting Rights Act, a bill that would grant the city one voting member in Congress, was stalled again – this time because a few pro-gun members of Congress slyly attached to the bill a random, unrelated amendment that would force D.C. to loosen their own gun laws. (As the former murder capitol of the U.S., D.C.’s gun laws are stricter than most).
Now the Justice Department is fighting over whether or not the voting rights bill is even Constitutional because D.C. is not really a state. So its looking like the bill won’t be considered again until May. So where is the public outrage from the rest of the country?
D.C., a city that is 60% African American, a city without a state, is a city with no true political voice. And no one outside of D.C. seems to care.
But the people and families that live here do have a voice. I’m not talking about the Washington that people think is a city of politicians and lobbyists from other states. I’m talking about the other part of the city – where the people have been living for generations, where the kids attend some of the worst public schools in the nation, where they gave us Duke Ellington, Howard University, Marvin Gaye and Dave Chapelle. Where they listen to go-go music, eat mumbo sauce, and have jobs, and friends, and churches. Obama’s new ‘hood. I’m talking about the D.C. of the people.
The powers that be are using loopholes, tricks, and laws to justify relegating that D.C. (an overwhelmingly Democratic population) to a lower political status than the rest.
So where are our national civil rights leaders talking about this? Where is that celebrity from the area (or the urrrea as we say) that’s going to pick up this fight the same way Russ did for Rockefeller drug laws and Clef did for poverty in Haiti?
And more importantly, where are you?
D.C. residents have hopped on buses and walked across state lines to protest civil rights violations for everything from Jena 6 to Amadou Diallo to the voter suppression in Ohio. This may not be as dramatic, but it’s just as important. And it’s time folks return the love.
President Obama supports the cause, but It’s your Congresspeople that hold the fate of the District in their hands. Which means it’s your voice that counts.
Make sure they hear it.