Three Black U.S. senators propose to make lynching a federal hate crime
“This bill finally rights a wrong that should have been done a long time ago," Cory Booker said.
The three Black members of the U.S. Senate are flexing their political muscle to make lynching a federal hate crime, according to multiple news organizations.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California introduced the legislation along with Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House earlier in June.
“This sends a very powerful message,” The New York Times quoted Booker, former mayor of Newark, as saying. “Literally, thousands of African Americans were being lynched throughout history, and the Senate never stepped up to pass any legislation to stop this heinous, despicable behavior.”
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Despite multiple attempts to push anti-lynching bills through Congress from 1882 through 1986, none were approved, according to the Times.
The proposed bill would make lynching a crime punishable by sentences as long as life in prison, the Times reported.
The bill so far has the support of 16 other senators, including independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Tim Kaine of Virginia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, also has pledged his support.
Earlier this month, McConnell told Sirius XM that he thought lawmakers had dealt with lynching long ago.
“I thought we did that many years ago,” McConnell said. “I hadn’t thought about it. I thought that was done back during L.B.J. or some period like that.”
Kamala Harris said in a statement that it was time for the U.S. government to move forward. She made reference to the Senate’s decision in 2005 to issue a formal apology to lynching victims.
“The Senate’s apology, while laudable, still falls short of the mark,” Harris said. “It is time for the Senate and the House finally to take up and pass this legislation, and end this stain on American history.”
Booker, Harris and Scott said more than 4,000 people were lynched in this country between 1882 and 1968, according to the Times.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois, introduced the House version of the legislation.
“While many may argue that lynching has been relegated to history, you only need to look at the events in Charlottesville last year to be reminded that the racist and hateful sentiments that spurred these abhorrent crimes are still prevalent in today’s American society,” the Times quoted Rush as saying dung the formal bill introduction in Washington.
A memorial to the victims of lynching opened in Montgomery, Ala., in April. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice includes the names of the counties where lynchings took place as well as the names of lynching victims.
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Of the proposed Senate legislation, Booker said, “This bill finally rights a wrong that should have been done a long time ago.”