While many of us view lynchings as a thing of the past, the unspeakable traumas that they’ve inflicted upon our community are still very much alive today. That and they aren’t exactly a thing of the past, as our friendly neighborhood racists always take the time to remind us.
Yet despite their being racially motivated acts of violence, lynchings somehow don’t qualify as a federal hate crime—yet. Though that might finally change, as the House will put it to a vote next week.
From the Washington Post:
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Thursday that the House will vote next week to make lynching a federal hate crime, which Congress failed to do nearly 200 times in the 20th century since [Rep. George Henry] White’s bill in 1900. Hoyer said that while the bill is long overdue, “it is never too late to do the right thing and address these gruesome, racially motivated acts of terror that have plagued our nation’s history.”
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Bobby Rush, would make lynchings and mob killings punishable up to life in prison. Last year, the bill passed the Senate, where it was championed by Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
In a statement, both Booker and Harris responded to Hoyer’s announcement.
“Lynchings were horrendous, racist acts of violence,” Harris said. “For far too long Congress has failed to take a moral stand and pass a bill to finally make lynching a federal crime. I’m grateful for the partnership of Senators Booker and Scott, and I applaud the House of Representatives for bringing this important legislation to the floor. This justice is long overdue.”
“I’m humbled and grateful that the House will be taking up this important piece of legislation next week,” Booker said. “Lynching has been used as a pernicious tool of racialized violence, terror, and oppression and is a stain on the soul of our nation. While we cannot undue the irrevocable damage of lynching and its pervasive legacy, we can ensure that we as a country make clear that lynching will not be tolerated.”
As previously mentioned, Congress has failed to green-light anti-lynching legislation a mind-blowing 200 times between 1882 and 1986. And according to the Equal Justice Initiative, a total of 4,084 lynchings occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois reflected on the magnitude of this moment.
“I am immensely proud to announce that my bill, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, will finally receive a vote on the House Floor,” he tweeted. “I can think of no better way to honor the memory of Emmett Till and celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth than with the swift passage of this bill next week.”
After passing the House, the bill will then head to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
We’ll keep an eye out on the vote and provide you with an update here at The Root.