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In historic first, US Senate unanimously passes bill to make lynching a hate crime

The 'Emmett Till Antilynching Act' now awaits the final approval from President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

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New Delhi: The United States Senate Monday unanimously passed a legislation that for the first time would make lynching a federal hate crime in the country.

The ‘Emmett Till Antilynching Act’, which came into being after over 200 failed attempts, now awaits the final approval from President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The bill earned an overwhelming majority of the House, 422–3, last month.

The historic bill derives its name from Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of harassing a white woman.

Many American senators have hailed the move, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who said, “It is long overdue. That it took so long is a stain, a bitter stain on America”.

African American Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said, “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 racialised violence that has permeated its history.”

‘Lynching longstanding American weapon of racial terror’

The legislation categorises lynching as an act of offense when death or serious bodily injury results from a conspiracy to commit hate crime and a convict would face up to 30 years in prison.

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organisation in the US that was formed in 1909 as an interracial endeavour to advance justice for African Americans, Blacks are the primary victims of lynching as they accounted for 3,446, or about 72 per cent of those lynched.

The first attempt to introduce an anti-lynching bill in the US can be traced back to Representative George Henry White of North Carolina, the only Black lawmaker at the time. He had introduced a bill to make lynching a hate crime in 1900. The legislation never made it to the House floor for a vote. Many similar bills had been proposed since then but they could never become law.

The new anti-lynching bill is led by Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who last month had cited the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot dead in Georgia while jogging. Rush called his death a “modern-day lynching”. A civil-rights leader and the founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Rush has promised to make the bill into law before retiring at the end of his term.

“Lynching is a longstanding and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy,” Rush said Monday.

Also read: More Black women ran for Congress in 2020 than ever before, but they still lost ground


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