What You Need to Know:
The U.S. House passed an anti-lynching bill Monday that will make lynching a federal hate crime. Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (HR 55), named after the Black 14-year-old boy murdered in Money, Mississippi, in August, 1955.
The bill seeks to amend a section of the United States Code, which defines lynching as a hate crime act and “anyone who conspires to commit such an act resulting in death or serious bodily injury shall be punished by up to 30 years in prison.”
In talking about how the murder of Emmett Till affected his years growing up in Chicago, Rep. Rush also pointed to “modern-day lynchings,” such as the February 23, 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
“Today is a day of enormous consequence for our nation,” the retiring Congressman said in a statement. “By passing my Emmett Till Antilynching Act, the House has sent a resounding message that our nation is finally reckoning with one of the darkest and most horrific periods of our history and that we are morally and legally committed to changing course.”
The passage of the Emmett Till bill followed over 200 attempts to make lynching a federal crime. The Washington Post gave the passage of the bill a sense of history:
“The House’s earliest attempt to pass anti-lynching legislation came in 1900, when Rep. George Henry White (R-NC), then the country’s only Black member of Congress, stood on the floor of the House, presenting the unprecedented measure, which would have prosecuted lynchings at the federal level. The bill later died in committee.”
Why You Need to Know:
Remember this in this election year.
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act passed with almost unanimous consent, 422 votes in favor, 3 opposed. The three Congressman voting against the bill were Republicans Andrew Clyde (GA), Thomas Massie (KY) and Charles “Chip” Roy (TX). Massie posted a series of tweets stating passage of the bill could endanger free speech. In the second of four tweets, the northern Kentucky Representative stated:
“This bill expands current federal ‘hate crime’ laws. A crime is a crime and all victims deserve equal justice. Adding enhanced penalties for ‘hate’ tends to endanger other liberties such as freedom of speech.”
The Anti-lynching bill now moves to the Senate, where former opponent, Rand Paul (R-KY) announced he will sponsor the legislation. In supporting the current Senate bill, Paul said the language in the current Senate bill, “will hopefully keep us from incarcerating somebody for some kind of crime that’s not lynching.”
Despite his reason for now supporting the anti lynching bill, Rand Paul is running for re-election this year. His presumptive opponent in the general election is African American Democrat, Charles Booker.