Earlier this week, something really important happened for black people. Crispus Attucks would be proud: the residents of the District of Columbia are finally getting a member of Congress with full voting privileges.

DC is becoming more diverse, but it’s still majority African-American. Few Americans realize that hundreds of thousands of people have experienced taxation without representation in Congress. I lived in DC for years, and it was bitter to know that while I paid the same taxes as every other American, my representative in Congress was not able to vote like all the other members of the House of Representatives and has no representation in the Senate despite having as many people as smaller states in the Union.

As the DC voting right movement gained steam through organizations like DC Vote, opposition to it sometimes took on a nasty racist sheen. Republicans resisted what they knew well to be a mostly Democratic citizenry well-educated on the workings of Congress having additional power. They counted on the minority status of the citizens for years to keep DC voting rights off the table. Added representation for 95% white, very conservative Utah was ultimately offered as a compromise. Consciousness-raising and urban cultural resistance (stickers and license plates throughout the city chided: Taxation Without Resistance) helped prick the moral conscience of legislators. Those days are gone finally. Chris Bowers has a good summary from Open Left:

The D.C. Voting Rights Act has passed through cloture in the Senate, 62-34. It is now a certainty to pass into law. The act grants D.C. a full voting member in the House of Representatives, a seat which will be held by a Democrat for a long, long, loooong time. Currently, the seat is held by Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is a frequent guest on the Colbert Report. In exchange, the Act also grants a fourth member of Congress to Utah (currently Utah has three Representatives, two Republicans and one Democrat). Since Utah was next in line to receive an additional Representative, this is the sort of bi-partisan compromise I can live with. We end a great stain on our Republic by giving D.C. representation in the U.S. House, get a new, uber-solid Democratic seat, and all it required was giving Utah something it would have received in 2012 anyway.

Almost 600,000 people in the United States now have something closer to full citizenship. That’s almost as many people who live in Vermont and more people than live in Wyoming. 55% of those newly enfranchised DC residents (down from a peak of 70% in the 1970s) are black. Now that’s black history, y’all.

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