There are just three Black people serving in the United States Senate, and on Friday (June 29), they introduced a bill that seeks to make lynching a federal hate crime.
Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 in a rare moment of bipartisanship. It is supported by 20 additional Democratic and Independent Senators. Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and 35 members of the Congressional Black Caucus introduced a similar bill in the House on June 13.
In a statement on the bill, lynching is defined as “the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person.” The bill set to amend the United States Code to make lynching crime that calls for an “enhanced” sentence under existing federal hate crimes.
“Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it,” said Senator Harris. “From 1882 to 1986 there have been 200 attempts that have failed to get Congress to pass federal anti-lynching legislation, it’s time for that to change.”
The act is supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Anti-Defamation League and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).
“It is never too late for our nation to express our sorrow for the decades of racial terror that traumatized millions in this country,” Bryan Stevenson—executive director of EJI and founder of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which honors the victims of lynchings—said in the statement. “Passing an anti-lynching law is not just about who we were decades ago, it’s a statement about who we are now that is relevant, important and timely.”