As the capital of the United States, Washington DC is not one of the 50 states. It’s a “federal district,” hence “District of Columbia,” shortened to “D.C.” But that could soon change, as they are currently bidding for statehood. If that happened, Washington DC would become the 51st state, and its leaders would give it an entirely new name.
That name could quite likely be “New Columbia,” an old name that was approved by voters in a 1982 referendum in which Washington DC tried for statehood. It originates from Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who is obviously a critical part of U.S. history.
Of course, some long time DC residents are anxious about the name change. Columbus’ reputation as a hero has undergone quite a sea-change since the 1980s, with many seeing him as a brutal conqueror rather than a noble explorer. According to Matthew Green, an associate professor of politics at Catholic University in Washington DC, “It’s hard to come up with a name that would honor the city’s political, living and symbolic dimensions equally.” He mentions that one of the alternative suggestions, “Douglass Commonwealth” might also be appropriate due to the fact that Frederik Douglass was an important figure in African-American politics. He lead the abolitionist movement, which ended slavery in the U.S.
People are joining in the conversation on social media, adding in their opinion about the name change and possible statehood.
Statehood has long been a fraught issue for DC residents, as many who actually live in the district support it, while Congress has typically been against the idea. Among the reasons for statehood include the fact that DC isn’t fully represented in Congress by voting members, and that decisions typically made by organizations like a city council instead often require Congressional approval, taking them out of local government’s hands.
Presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton supports the change along with Bernie Sanders, but nothing is set in stone yet. The statehood issue will probably be debated at the Democratic National Convention in July. Until then, we’ll just have to sit tight and see what happens.