Lynching Now Officially Hate Crime

By Mathew Seibert and Luke Kyaw

WASHINGTON, DC – The Emmett Till Lynching Act was signed this week here by President Joe Biden, marking a historic day.

Addressing this law and the long history of racist killings in the U.S., an article by The Guardian News shed light on the newly passed bill named in remembrance of a 14-year-old Black boy who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955.

After it passed the Senate unanimously, the House of Representatives approved the bill 422-3 on March 7.

President Biden signed the landmark bill in the Rose Garden of the White House, surrounded by members of Congress, Vice President Kamala Harris, and top justice department officials.

He was also accompanied by Parker, a cousin of Till, and a descendant of Ida B. Wells, a renowned Black journalist who reported on lynching.

The newly passed bill makes it possible to prosecute a lynching as a hate crime that results in death or serious bodily injury.

According to Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush, the law can ordain a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and fines.

Prior to the bill’s passing, said Rush, Till’s case drew national attention when there was an all-white jury’s dismissal of charges against the two white men who later confessed they killed Till. This further highlighted the violent acts African Americans face in the U.S.

The passing of this bill comes after more than 120 years of unsuccessful attempts of anti-lynching legislation. There were reportedly over 200 bills that failed to pass Congress, such as the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill of 1918.

After the bill signing, Vice President Kamala Harris commented that this bill is one step in amending “unfinished business” in America’s history and that the U.S. must continue to have “the courage to name … and hold the perpetrators to account.”

Harris co-sponsored the bill while she still served as the U.S. Senator of California.

Till’s cousin, Parker, also gave credit to recent events—primarily the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020 which revamped the Black Lives Matter movement—for helping the successful passage of the bill.

Biden stated that this historic law does not just address the past but also “the present and future as well,” and that the country should continue to pass bills that do so.

About The Author

Mathew is a student enrolled at California State University of Long Beach. I also grew up here in Long Beach California. He aspires to join the military right after he graduates. After his service, he is interested in a career in federal law enforcement or the fire department.

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16 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    I’m puzzled.  A lynching is killing someone for an offense without a trial.  It is usually associated with a white racist mob killing a black person, usually by hanging, but need not be.  Isn’t killing a black person or other protected class already a hate crime if you can prove it was done with racial intentions?  Therefore, I don’t see what this law adds, except for show.  I’m happy to be informed.

    Now, if that 1918 proposed law (which I’m sure wasn’t about ‘hate crimes’ as such) was passed back in 1918, the country would have been much better off.

  2. David Greenwald

    Alan your definition of lynching is too narrow.

    I don’t know what’s confusing about this.

    The law allows for crimes — such as kidnappings, aggravated sexual abuse, or attempts to kill —t o be prosecuted as lynchings in federal court when a conspiracy to commit a hate crime results in death or serious bodily injury. Individuals convicted of lynching face punishment of up to 30 years in prison”

    What does this do?  For one thing, it makes lynching a federal crime, which it was not.  Previously murder was a state charge, and this beefs up the federal hate crimes statute to allow for someone convicted of lynching to receive up to 30 years.  The biggest area where this will be felt is allowing for federal prosecution of police killings that have a racial component with a much stronger charge than a violation of civil rights.  it also allows the feds to take other racially motivated murder cases.

    1. Alan Miller

      The lynching definition seems circular.  I did not understand the federal aspect – thanks for clarifying.  I’m not sure what ‘police killings’ have to do with this — aren’t lynching usually done by mobs or small groups in the classic sense?

      1. Ron Oertel

        I’m not sure what ‘police killings’ have to do with this — aren’t lynching usually done by mobs or small groups in the classic sense?

        I’m gathering from David’s response (and the information in the article), someone like Chauvin might have been charged with “lynching” at the federal level.

        And that this might increasingly be used against police suspected of engaging in “racist killings” (or so claimed).

      2. Ron Oertel

        In other words, including some instances when the police shoot someone who is not white.  In which case, they could conceivably be charged with “lynching” at the federal level.

        At least, that’s what I’m gathering from the article and David’s comment.

        It seems that the focus is NOT on “police killings” (using David’s wording), if they themselves get killed (e.g., based upon a racial component).

        Up until this point, I had not understood the purpose of the law, either.

        1. Alan Miller

          Well, if that’s the case, then white people can’t be “Lynched”?

          Can Jews by “Lynched”?

          If the answer is “only if they are not white appearing”, then there is something seriously wrong with this law.

          Who gets to choose who is on the “is this Jew dark enough?” panel?

        2. Ron Oertel

          I believe they could be, in theory (under this law). 

          Just as hate crimes can apply to those who commit crimes against whites, Jews, etc. However, normally not applied that way – regardless of reality.

          Of course, murder was always illegal under federal law, as are hate crime enhancements (I believe). So, I’m still not entirely sure what the purpose of this law is.

          But I have seen these weird situations where someone is charged with violating someone’s “civil rights”, when the allegation of what they did is much more serious than that. Maybe that’s where state law had more serious charges and consequences.

        3. Ron Oertel

          So if you really want to “double convict” someone, maybe this would allow the government to accomplish both.

          For those cases where some are interested in enacting revenge, vs. criminal justice reform – especially if a police officer is charged.  (At least, that’s sometimes my impression.)

          And then, you can haul their keesters (as well as the police department / city’s keesters) into civil court, and extract some money out of them, as well.

      3. David Greenwald

        Alan – lynching is anyone taking the law into their own hands.  Police who step outside their authority do exactly that.

        In terms of your Jewish question, Leo Frank was undoubtedly lynched.  I’m not sure why you would draw the conclusion that you do.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Could that definition include gang members who attack other gang members (in regard to “taking the law into their own hands”), for example? Including drive-by shootings, etc.?

          Though we don’t know why, six people had their civil rights violated (at the very least) in Sacramento at about 2:00 a.m. this morning. I’m always fascinated when the Vanguard doesn’t cover this type of incident (which unfortunately, isn’t all that rare). But then covers (ad nauseum) some other incident, such as analyzing the actions of police on Picnic Day. (You might recall that one of those arrested reportedly had ammunition.)

          My guess is that you’d like to view the incident in Sacramento as some form of “systemic racism”. Or if you can’t, you don’t cover it.

          And yet, this type of incident (by far) impacts a lot more people.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Actually, another nine also had their civil rights violated, but not “terminally”.

          But sure – have at it, regarding what you view as the greatest injustices in this world. In your mind (and those who think like you), it seems that you’re most focused on those who venture into the cesspool – ultimately in an attempt to protect all. And (in terms of actual numbers) rarely “screw up” on the vast scale of others who take away the “civil rights” of others.

          Keep analyzing those police videos, while opposing cameras that can actually catch those who are the primary danger.

        3. Alan Miller

          I understand that usually ‘hate crimes’ are rarely applied when a white person is hated upon.  Maybe I’m wrong about that.  And I’ve heard ‘evidence’ is often something someone blurts out, often while intoxicated.  People say all sorts of weird S—, especially drunk/high.  I’m not sure it proves what darkness lies in their hearts.

          That shooting in Sac — hey give DG a chance it was only at 2:00am last night.  That one is close to home as I worked in two offices both one block from there, and walked down to that corner for lunch and/or coffee every day for seven years.  All very familiar landmarks.  The scene down there late at night is like the Davis nightclub scene before the Ket-Mo-Ree murders, but on steroids.  Sac lets this happen, for the $$$ of the businesses down there – many of which received heavy subsidies from the City (of Sac).  The city leaders act all innocent and no they aren’t directly to blame, but they allowed a toxic scene to fester, just like Davis once did.

           

        4. Ron Oertel

          That shooting in Sac — hey give DG a chance it was only at 2:00am last night.

          That thought occurred to me as well, but certainly other media sources covered it right away. If he covers it tomorrow, it won’t be “current news”, as a straight-out reporting at least. My guess is that he won’t cover it at all, since it’s not really his interest (e.g., compared to the Picnic Day incident, for example). Or, Stephon Clark, for example.

          My main points regarding that incident are as follows:

          1)  These type of incidents absolutely dwarf misconduct by police, and have a far greater impact on communities of color.  I guess one has to be a social justice warrior to focus more on the police, than the (literally) thousands of incidents like the one in Sacramento each year.  In other words, it’s simply not David’s interest, or those who are on a crusade with him.

          Lately, David’s type of activism has made some inroads into popular culture (for lack of a better phrase), but this simply isn’t a long-term reflection of reality regarding relative impact. Not even close.

          2)  Using David’s definition of “lynching”, it seems to me that a lot of crime (e.g., between gangs) is essentially “taking the law into their own hands” (e.g., to enact revenge for a prior illegal incident, for example).  As such, it seems to meet this newly-expanded definition.

        5. Ron Oertel

          I’ve concluded that the basic reason that David and other social justice warriors aren’t interested in this type of crime are as follows:

          1)  It doesn’t fit their agenda, regarding crime being “systemic racism’s” fault.  Or at least, it’s tougher for them to explain it that way.

          2)  They’d rather focus on police reform, as this does correspond with their belief in, and associated agenda regarding systemic racism.

          From what I can see, progressives (of David’s type) focus nearly all of their attention on how society should “help” those creating a problem for others, rather than attributing behavior and consequences to personal responsibility.  This all goes to the root of the differences between conservatives and progressives.

          It’s also why we periodically see articles which imply that society owes those breaking laws (including traffic laws) a break that others don’t receive.  It’s a way of attributing responsibility to society, rather than individuals.

          These type of arguments have been around ever since I can remember, but they resurface in various forms. Lately, they have zeroed in on skin color in a manner that they did not do previously. And offer disparities in outcomes as “proof” of systemic racism, and go out of their way to downplay any actual differences in crime rates between different groups, etc. The problem is that even they don’t believe this (if they’re being honest with themselves), let alone anyone else. The reason being that it’s simply not true.

           

        6. Ron Oertel

          I would also add (as a final thought this evening) that this belief in the need to address systemic racism overshadows all other concerns, including any environmental concerns that they lay claim to. (Let alone addressing the enormous impact of crime in some communities.)

          Hence, the reason that they’re willing to do-away with any stated concerns regarding climate change, if (for example) addressing it would have a disproportionate impact (e.g., in regard to driving, housing, or anything else).

          First and foremost is to ensure that all skin colors have proportionate impact.  Or more accurately, making up for past disproportionate impact, even though no one currently alive was around 100 or so years ago. As such, what occurred 200 years ago is completely and totally irrelevant, other than whatever lingering impact it has on those who are actually alive.

          They will throw all other concerns “under the bus”. (Interestingly, they don’t seem as concerned regarding gender, disability, etc.).

          So, that’s my rant for this evening.

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