On February 10, 2021, and in the days thereafter, liberal American commentators showered Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett with superlatives and praise due to her masterful takedown of former President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial for incitement of the January 6, 2021 Capitol Riot. Referring to a picture of Plaskett wearing a knee-length blue dress with draped sleeves, the political strategist (and daughter of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi) Christine Pelosi took to Twitter to note that “[n]ot all superheroes wear capes. This one does!”

Plaskett is one of many Black Americans who has done the hard work of cleaning up the chaos left behind by former President Trump. This group includes Amanda Gorman, who rubbed balm into the nation’s weary soul at President Biden’s inauguration; the Senate Chaplain, Barry Black, who attempted to bring a sense of purpose and dignity to the tense impeachment proceedings with solemn prayer; Capitol Hill Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, who was appointed to her post two days after the Capitol Riot as part of a phenomenon known as the “glass cliff” whereby women and people of color (and certainly women of color) are named to positions of leadership in moments of crisis; and Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who heroically helped Senators evacuate the Capitol as it came under siege, while also diverting the mob away from the lawmakers. Still others, who remain nameless and largely faceless, were charged with quite literally cleaning up the Capitol after insurrectionists ransacked it and destroyed a tribute to the late Congressman John Lewis in the process.

While Brooklyn-born Plaskett gave her best to the United States during her presentation of evidence during the trial, she did so from a relatively disempowered position. The congresswoman is a nonvoting delegate: the U.S. Virgin Islands are an American territory, not a state. Though her work be queenly, neither she nor her fellow Virgin Islanders enjoy full legal personhood in the United States; they are excluded from full political participation because they remain American subjects. Plaskett is thus competent to give her labor and expertise to prosecute Donald Trump—but had no right to vote for or against him, or even in support of the impeachment proceeding over which she would preside.

This Essay attempts to explain why Plaskett and her fellow nonvoting delegates from American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands as well as the resident commission from Puerto Rico are allowed to work for the United States—why, indeed, their work may be celebrated for its patriotism—even as they are excluded by law from full political proprietorship. It challenges the notion that the United States is undergoing a racial justice awakening as it continues to perpetuate its subjugation of, and extraction from, its colonial territories—all of which are populated predominantly by Indigenous people and people of African descent. Instead, this Essay claims that the United States' refusals to grant statehood or the franchise to its colonial territories and Washington, D.C. reveal its commitment to white supremacy...

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