New Jersey’s Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has pointed to the racist and homophobic attack on actor Jussie Smollet to show the necessity for Congress to finally pass an anti-lynching law, which cleared a key hurdle Thursday as it winds its way through the legislative process.
The U.S. Senate passed an anti-lynching bill on Thursday, which was announced Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the three senators who introduced the measure in 2018.
“Our anti-lynching bill, which would make lynching a federal crime, just unanimously passed the Senate. Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our nation’s history and I’m hopeful this measure will swiftly pass the House,” Harris tweeted.
In December, the Senate made history by passing the same bill. However, it had to be re-introduced in the Senate this year because the Republican-controlled House of Representative failed to bring it up for a vote before the year ended.
Now that the Democrats have a majority in the House, the anti-lynching bill that the Senate passed Thursday will likely sail through the House without any problems. The final stop will be President Trump’s desk for signature.
Booker dispelled any notion that there was no need for an anti-lynching law in the 21st century.
“The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching,” Booker tweeted in January.” I’m glad he’s safe. To those in Congress who don’t feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime– I urge you to pay attention.”
On Feb. 9, while walking to a Subway, two men reportedly yelled racial and homophobic slurs at Smollett after he exited the restaurant, investigators told The Hollywood Reporter. They allegedly punched and poured bleach on him while one of the suspects put a rope around his neck. As they fled the scene, Smollett told police they said, “This is MAGA country.”
The Senate’s vote in December was historic because it was the first time that senators passed an anti-lynching bill after almost 200 failed attempts over more than a century. During that time, the House passed several anti-lynching bills only to have them die in the Senate.
The Senate’s three Black senators—Harris, Booker and Republican Sen. Tim Scott—introduced the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 in June. It calls for a life prison sentence for those found guilty on federal anti-lynching charges.
The Senate bill underscores statistics — including that more than 4,700 people were lynched between the years 1882 and 1968 — supported by research compiled by Tuskegee University, according to NPR. About 75 percent of the victims were African-Americans while “99 percent of all perpetrators of lynching escaped from punishment by state or local officials.”