House should pass an anti-lynching bill that Rep. Rush says is decades overdue

Over 4,000 people, mostly African Americans, were lynched in the United States from 1882 to 1968 in all but a handful of states. Ninety-nine percent of the perpetrators escaped state or local punishment, according to Rush’s office.

The expected passage of the measure comes after lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to pass anti-lynching bills nearly 200 times. Proponents of the legislation called its passage a long time ago.

“I was eight years old when my mother put the photo of the brutalized body of Emmett Till running in Jet magazine on our living room coffee table, pointed at it and said, “That’s why I got my boys out of Albany, Georgia,” Rush said in a statement last Friday. “This photo shaped my consciousness as a black man in America, changed the course of my life, and changed our very nation.

Although Till and other lynching victims cannot be brought back, Rush said, “we can finally turn the page on our country’s repeated failure to outlaw lynching federally and end this longstanding injustice.” date and to this painful affront to the African-American community”.

Last month, Rush announced his retirement from Congress at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, the Chicago church that was the site of Till’s funeral in 1955. Longtime civil rights activist who sits in the House for three decades, Rush has vowed to continue his fight for racial justice and fairness outside of Washington after he leaves Congress next year.

Two men were charged with Till’s murder but were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury. The men later confessed to the crime. Till’s accuser, Carolyn Bryant Donham, admitted in 2017 that Till had not made sexual advances to her, contradicting her earlier testimony.

In 2020, the House passed an earlier version of Rush’s bill on a 410-4 vote. But Paul opposed passing the measure unanimously in the Senate, saying he was concerned that the bill law does not “confuse less serious crimes with lynching” and that it allows harsher penalties for altercations that only result in “minor bruising”.

Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.) then Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-California), two of the authors of the Senate legislation, angrily berated Paul during the June 2020 floor debate. Booker noted that the country was in the midst of a reckoning in its long history of racial violence and that the passage of the anti-lynching bill could offer a ray of hope.

“I’ve had kids break up with me this week wondering if this would be a country that values ​​their lives as much as white people’s,” Booker said at the time. “I had to explain to grown men this week that there is still hope in America; that we could make a difference in America; that we could grow and heal in America; that we could make it a more perfect union.

The legislation ultimately came to nothing.

Unlike the 2020 measure, the latest version of the measure includes the words “death or serious bodily injury”.

In a statement Monday, Paul said he joined Booker and Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) in reworking the legislation and supports the version that is expected to pass the House.

“I am delighted to have worked with Senators Booker and Scott to strengthen the final product and ensure that the wording of this bill defines lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is, and I am pleased to co-sponsor this effort. bipartisan,” Paul said. .

During Monday’s floor debate, Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.) said the lynching “isn’t just a horror of the past” and noted that the measure “would do incredibly and tragically for the first times lynching a federal hate crime in America.”

“Passing the anti-lynching law is a historic step toward justice and a signal that our nation will finally heed the dark chapter in our history,” Carter said.

Several House Republicans voiced support for the legislation during Monday’s floor debate, with some pointing to changes made after Paul’s objections.

“I’m grateful that we’re going to vote today on this version of this bill,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona). “I think it’s a much improved version, as opposed to the one that came out of committee. And I’m grateful to everyone who worked hard to try to make it a better bill.

The House’s first attempt to pass anti-lynching legislation came in 1900, when Rep. George Henry White (RN.C.), then the nation’s only black congressman, stood on the floor of the House and read the text of his unprecedented measure, which would have prosecuted lynchings at the federal level. The bill later died in committee.

Years later, Rep. Leonidas C. Dyer (R-Mo.) introduced an anti-lynching measure that passed the House but was blocked in the Senate by Southern Democrats, many of whom opposed it in the name of “states’ rights”.

In 2005, the Senate approved a resolution apologizing for its failure to enact anti-lynching legislation. So-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) pointed to the horrific impact of decades of chamber inaction, saying that “there is perhaps no other injustice in American history of which the Senate so bears especially responsibility”.


Washington

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