The only three Black United States senators in Congress are authoring a bill together that would make lynching a federal hate crime for the first time in U.S. history.
The bill would enable lynching to be a part of the hate crime package alongside existing crimes such as murder.
What is probably shocking to most urbanites is the fact that there are more than 200 anti-lynching bills that have been introduced to Congress since 1918 — exactly 100 years ago — and every one of those bills had been voted down for some strange reason, noted the bill’s lead sponsor, Junior Senator Kamala Harris, D-California.
“Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it,” said Harris, 53.
If the bill passes through Congress, the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act would make lynching punishable by a sentence of up to life in prison.
Lynching was an effective terrorist attack against freed African Americans in the post-slavery and post-Reconstruction years and enabled white supremacist and KKK to firmly establish Jim Crowism in the South (legal segregation). In the 19th and 20th centuries, thousands of African Americans were lynched by white mobs, often by hanging.
The anti-lynching bill is a bipartisan effort as Harris and Cory Booker, 49, are Democrats while the bill’s third sponsor, Tim Scott, 52, is a Republican.
All three are African American, which raises yet another obvious question.
“It’s a travesty that despite repeated attempts to do so, Congress still hasn’t put anti-lynching legislation on the books,” Booker said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
“This bill will right historical wrongs by acknowledging our country’s stained past,” Booker added.
According to the text of the bill, at least 4,742 people were reported lynched in the US between 1882 and 1968. The Times reports that the bill says 99 percent of all perpetrators of lynching escaped any form of punishment.
A prerequiste for the bill to pass is the backing of 60 senators. Thus far, 16 senators have declared their support, the New York Times reports, including former Democrat presidential contender Bernie Sanders — no surprises there — as well as New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, and Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine,
The House majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also indicated he would support the bill.
“I thought we did that many years ago,” McConnell said earlier month in an interview with Sirius XM radio. “If we need one at the federal level, I certainly will support it,” he said.
The first anti-lynching bill was introduced to Congress a century ago by Republican Representative Leonidas Dyer of Missouri. The bill passed the House but was opposed by Democratic senators from southern states and failed to pass the Senate.
In 2005, the senate passed a rare resolution apologizing for the repeated failure to approve anti-lynching legislation. The bi-partisan resolution was backed by 90 members of the Senate out of 100.
“Notwithstanding the Senate’s apology and the heightened awareness and education about the Nation’s legacy with lynching, it is wholly necessary and appropriate for the Congress to enact legislation, after 100 years of unsuccessful legislative efforts, finally to make lynching a Federal hate crime,” the bill says.
An anti-lynching memorial was recently unveiled in Montgomery, Alabama, in April, the Times reports, which is apropos since the state was the site of the most contentious and violent opposition to the Civil Rights Movement.