Senate Passes Bill That Makes Lynching a Federal Crime
Friday, February 15, 2019
February 16, 2019
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would make lynching a federal crime.
The bill, which was introduced in June by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) had previously passed in the Senate in December, but did not pass in the GOP-majority House before the end of the 115th Congress. The Hill reports that the bill passed Thursday with a voice vote. While discussing the bill, Booker cited the recent reported attack in Chicago against actor Jussie Smollett of Empire fame and said that “lynching is not a relic of the past.”
“Justice for the victims of lynching has been too long denied, and as we look forward we must collectively in this body make a strong, unequivocal statement,” he added.
Harris called lynching a part of the country’s “uncomfortable history” that she said has never been “truly acknowledged” or “reconciled.”
“We must confront hate in our country. ... We are now making clear there will be serious, swift and severe consequences,” Harris said.
According to the text of the bill (pdf), “the crime of lynching succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction.” Lynching “widely acknowledged practice in the United States until the middle of the 20th century” that “occurred throughout the United States, with documented incidents in all but 4 States.”
Between 1882 and 1968, at least 4,742 primarily black people were lynched, and 99 percent of all perpetrators went unpunished.
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