In a nearly unanimous vote, the House voted to pass the bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. The new bill will be named after Emmett Till, who was lynched by a Mississippi white mob in 1955 at the age of 14. The word lynch is defined by Merriam- Webster as the action of putting “to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” The Washington Post states that “at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, more than 4000 victims of racist terrorism are remembered over the heads of visitors.”
Since 1900, members of the Senate and House have been trying and failing to pass a law that made lynching a federal crime. According to The New York Times, the bills were consistently blocked or ignored for over a century. On Wednesday, the house agreed that there should be an effort in adding lynching to the United States Criminal Code. The Senate passed a similar version of the bill, titled the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act introduced by Democrat Kamala Harris of California, Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina last year.
Three Republicans voted against the passing of the bill. Ted Yoho of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. One Independent, who was previously a Republican named Justin Amash of Michigan also voted no. Sixteen members did not vote, but the proposal still passed with bipartisan support and passed 410-4.
The Republicans that disagree with the government’s involvement with the bill believe that the government would be overreaching it’s power and thought that states should be the ones to decide. They feel that the bill would be taking too much power away from the states.
“The Constitution specifies only a handful of federal crimes and leaves the rest to individual states to prosecute,” he [Yoho] told Newsweek in a statement. “In addition, 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 others who voted no cited similar concerns. They felt that since there are states that already have existing laws for hate crimes, that the handling of these crimes should remain under state jurisdiction if we were to protect and preserve state rights. Currently there are 46 states producing laws that handle hate crimes.
According to The New York Times, Bobby Rush stated that “from Charlottesville to El Paso, we are still being confronted with the same violent racism and hatred that took the life of Emmett and so many others. The passage of this bill will send a strong and clear message to the nation that we will not tolerate this bigotry.” Mr. Rush referenced the white suprmacist rallies in Virginia in 2017 and a mass shooting in 2019 in which latinos were targeted.
The act of lynching remains a permanent stain on the U.S.’s history, reminding all of us that violence towards minorities, specifically African Americans, can never be made to be acceptable ever again. To be a government that is truly for the people, the government must take the measures to make amends for its lack in protecting its citizens. Those that oppose a bill that would be holding murders accountable should truly think about the impact lynching has had on communities, and the impact it continues to have today.
Featured Image: History.com