After more than 100 years of effort and 200 bills that failed, legislation to designate lynching a federal hate crime passed Congress on Monday and will head to President Biden for a signature. The measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent. The House passed it last month, 422 to 3, the Wall Street Journal reports. The bill would for the first time establish a criminal civil-rights violation for lynching in the U.S. Criminal Code. “Although no legislation will reverse the pain and fear felt by those victims, their loved ones, and Black communities, this legislation is a necessary step America must take to heal from the racialized violence that has permeated its history,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of three Black senators. The bill makes lynching part of the federal hate crimes statute, which defines a hate crime as an attempt to cause bodily injury to any person because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin. The bill adds language to the criminal code that says if death or serious bodily injury occurs as part of the hate crime, the perpetrator faces up to 30 years in prison. “After working on this issue for years, I am glad to have partnered with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally get this done,” said Sen. Tim Scott, a Black Republican from South Carolina. More than 4,000 African-Americans were lynched in Southern states between 1877 and 1950, says the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative. The crimes were often committed as a public spectacle to traumatize Black people, the group says, and those killed often weren’t guilty of any crime. The new bill was named after Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago whose 1955 lynching in Mississippi and the acquittal of his alleged white attackers, helped fuel the civil rights movement.
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