All three of the nation’s Black senators won a victory Thursday in the ongoing battle to criminalize lynching-related offenses for the first time in American history. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to advance the Justice for Victims Of Lynching Act of 2018, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Tim Scott.
Harris and Booker, who announced the bill in June, took the opportunity to speak about their mission to stop hateful acts of violence.
“Lynching is a dark and despicable part of our country’s history,” Harris (D-CA) said in a press release from her office. “These were acts of violence, needless and horrendous acts of violence that were motivated by racism. And we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it. These were crimes that were committed against innocent people. These are crimes that should have been prosecuted. There are victims and their families that should have received justice and did not. With this bill, we have a chance to speak the truth about our past make clear that these hateful acts should never happen again.”
“After more than a hundred years of failed efforts, we are now one step closer to finally making lynching a federal crime and putting an end to a long period of Congressional inaction and indifference,” Booker (D-NJ) said. “This bipartisan legislation is a painful – but necessary – acknowledgement [sic] of our nation’s horrific past, stained with the terror of racialized violence committed with near impunity. It sends a very clear signal that we as a nation will not tolerate bias-motivated violence in any form.”
Scott also offered words about what he feels the bill means for the nation.
“This is an important, long overdue bill that sends a strong message that we will not allow those who spew hate to divide us as a nation,” the Republican senator from South Carolina said.
Before the bill, Congress had failed time and time again to pass anti-lynching legislation. There were 200 failed attempts from 1882 to 1986, according to the release.
Lynching has long been a tool of terror that has targeted African Americans and led to countless deaths fueled by racist hate. In examining the painful history surrounding lynching, Booker, Harris and Scott, along with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations, hope the bill is a knock-out punch against the horrifying act.