Jones caused an uproar on the House floor Thursday when he accused certain Republicans of opposing the 51st state because the district wasn’t White enough in their minds to qualify for self-rule.
D.C. is 46% Black and 46% White, according to 2019 Census estimates.
Republicans immediately pounced on Jones’ accusations of “racist trash” and asked for his comments to be struck down from the House record. Jones ultimately agreed to withdraw his words, but he made clear this weekend he still stands by the sentiment.
During an interview Saturday on CNN, host Michael Smerconish pressed Jones about his claims and asked whether it was necessarily “racist” to oppose D.C. statehood.
“In the case of the debate today, it is,” Jones replied.
“If you uphold systems of White supremacy — even if you do not consider yourself to be racist — you are engaging in racist activity,” Jones added.
D.C. has a population of more than 700,000 residents — greater than Wyoming and Vermont — but the residents don’t have a voting member in the House and have no representation in the Senate.
Jones argued the reason why D.C. doesn’t have full voting rights and Wyoming and Vermont do is that those states are “overwhelmingly White.”
“The difference between those two states — aside from the fact that they have … fewer people than in Washington D.C. — is that they are overwhelmingly White states,” Jones said Saturday. “This is an issue of racial justice in addition to being an issue of democracy. We must stop disenfranchising people of color in this country.”
A divided House voted Thursday to make D.C. the 51st state, sending the bill to the Senate — where it has long odds of passing.
Under the plan, the state would be called “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The state would consist of 66 of the 68 square miles of the present-day federal district.
The 2 square miles around the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and National Mall would be carved out into a reduced federal district controlled by Congress and named the “Capital.”
Republicans were firmly opposed to the legislation and argued that, unlike other states Congress admitted to the union, D.C. is different because the founding founders specifically established it as a non-state federal enclave in the Constitution to be the seat of the federal government. Beyond the constitutional issues, GOP panned statehood as a power grab by Democrats to expand the majority in the Senate by adding two more senators from a liberal enclave.
But during a floor speech Thursday, Jones said the reason for the opposition is rooted in “White supremacy politics” and he called out statements by certain Republican lawmakers to argue his case.
“I have had enough of my colleagues’ racist insinuations that somehow that people of Washington, D.C., are incapable or even unworthy of our democracy,” Jones said in his speech. “One Senate Republican said that D.C. wouldn’t be a ‘well-rounded, working-class state.’ I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word White.”
“One of my House Republican colleagues said that D.C. shouldn’t be a state because the district doesn’t have a landfill,” Jones, D-N.Y., continued. “My goodness, with all the racist trash my colleagues have brought to this debate, I can see why they’re worried about having a place to put it.”
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who requested the freshman Democrat’s comments be removed, said Jones’ words were inappropriate and “unbecoming” of a member of Congress.
“Especially at a time of growing discord, to insinuate outright racial animosity by Republican Members of Congress during legitimate debate about the merits and Constitutionality of admitting the District of Columbia as a state is unbecoming of a Representative and violates the rules of the House,” Harris said Thursday. “Mr. Jones thankfully realized his words were inappropriate, and accepted the removal of the words from the record.”