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OPINION: Anti-lynching bill provides delayed justice

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Hannah Fleming, a freshman studying political science, argues that even though the U.S. House of Representatives was behind on outlawing lynching, it is still a step in the right direction for the anti-racism movement. 

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

 

65 years ago in Money, Mississippi, 14-year-old black boy Emmett Till was lynched by two white men following accusations that he made advances toward a white woman. His eyes were gouged out. His body was severely beaten. A bullet left a gaping hole in his skull. And he was discarded into the nearby Tallahatchie River.

In a gross instance of injustice, his murderers were acquitted of all charges. It was later noted that the allegations against Till were false.

Lynchings, however, didn’t just occur in the deep south. In 1881, a 24-four-year-old black man named Christopher Davis was lynched in Athens, Ohio by a mob of white men after being accused of raping and assaulting a white woman. Davis was, unfortunately, extrajudicially murdered before he could exercise his right to trial.

On Feb. 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, which finally recognized that this type of atrocity needs to be considered a federal hate crime.

What is extremely appalling, though, is that the bill was not passed unanimously. Four members of the House voted against it. Three Republicans — Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Ted Yoho of Florida — and one Independent — Justin Amash of Michigan — decided that extrajudicially killing individuals should not be regulated at the federal level. 

Identifying lynching as a federal hate crime allows for the Department of Justice to aggressively go after these evil acts with nationally-established punishments. The members of the House who voted against the act claimed it would give the federal government too much power and interfere with states’ individual rights to deal with crimes. 

This is problematic because states such as Alabama, Georgia or Mississippi with a continuous history of lynchings may take the crime less seriously and issue lenient rulings for those convicted of lynching. 

Other than the four who voted against this act, more than 400 members supported it. In the year 2020, it should be easy to come to a unanimous decision that would discontinue widespread tolerance of such a heinous part of our country’s history.

Lynching is a crime fed by racism, a value that is still very much prevalent today. Voter suppression, racial gerrymandering, uncontested police brutality and barring entire groups of people from entering the country are just a few examples of the racism that exists in the Trump era.

It’s been more than 100 years since the first anti-lynching bill was introduced, so just now passing a bill that constitutes it as a hate crime is a bit belated. However, justice delayed is not justice denied. This does not mark the ending of the anti-lynching movement, but rather, the beginning of a larger anti-racism movement. There is still a long way to go, but the House’s actions last week have sent a message that racial terrorism in the United States will no longer be tolerated. 

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