COLUMN: Proposed anti-lynching bill is a long needed change


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to members of the media after a leadership election Nov. 18, 2018 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.  Tribune News Service Buy Photos

A new bill declaring lynching, conspiracy to lynch, and attempts to lynch as federal crimes passed in the Senate on Feb. 14.

Yes, you read that right. There is no federal anti-lynching law in the year 2019. The Senate actually passed this exact same bill last year only for it to be struck down in the House. In fact, a federal lynching bill has been proposed and rejected 200 times since 1882. With this country’s incredibly bloody, racist past and present, it’s disgusting that this bill is not yet a law.

Between 1882 and 1968, 4,743 people were recorded as lynched in the United States. Many of these were individuals who were targeted for their support of black people. As society has progressed, lynching has not disappeared. It has just taken on new forms.

Lynching isn’t just hanging. It’s when a mob goes above the law to murder someone in order to carry out a racist sense of justice. Historically, white people, especially in the post-Reconstruction South, used lynching to terrorize black people into submission.

Violence against black people as a method of domination is still prevalent. In 1998, James Byrd was horrifically beaten by three white men who proceeded to drag him behind their truck for over three miles.

In 2008, two white men purposefully ran over Brandon McClelland with their car and dragged his body under their car down the highway.

In 2011, a mob of white teenagers murdered James Craig Anderson while shouting, “White power!”

These examples only cover the cases actually reported. There is an abundance of black people who died under suspicious circumstances who will never have their stories told.

With such a stained history, it’s atrocious that America doesn’t already have a law that makes lynching a federal crime. It leaves a large population of citizens completely unprotected from a crime with a deeply entrenched past.

White mobs attacking a black person draw unsettling parallels to modern-day college fraternities and the racist allegations that often stem from them. It is not uncommon to hear of a majorly white fraternity attacking or talking about about attacking black people.

Many believe that college policies against racism and hate crimes on campus are not doing enough. That is exactly why a federal law against lynching needs to be passed.

It isn’t just about time that lynching is declared a federal crime. It’s so long past time that I can’t believe it’s still up for debate. The law wouldn’t just be symbolic, it would protect black people in the present.

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