Puerto Rico statehood in Congress this week

In the next few days, the U.S. Congress will vote on a bill that would mandate a referendum in Puerto Rico on the island's status. Congress isn't voting on statehood per se, but this vote is seen as a first step in a longer-term statehood strategy. In recent days there have been a wide range of heated arguments made on both sides of this issue. I'm not qualified to sort out the pros and cons--but there is one point I'd add to the mix. Some opponents of Puerto Rican statehood have made statements that sound strikingly similar to arguments made against statehood for Cuba in the early 1900s, Yucatan in the 1840s, and the Philippines in the 1910s. In all three instances, racism was the primary obstacle to statehood.  Rep. John Sharp Williams of Mississippi, for example, opposed statehood for Cuba because  —in his words— “we have enough people of the Negro race.” Statehood for Puerto Rico may or may not be a good idea. I just hope Congress bases its decision on the right factors.

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