LOVE: Congress’s Anti-Lynching Bill Is An Empty Political Gesture

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Charles Love Contributor
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After years of partisan bickering, Congress came together to settle the biggest crisis facing the nation. No, it didn’t reach an agreement on health care, illegal immigration, tax policy or critical race theory. This was even bigger. Last week, the House passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, and the Senate followed suit Monday.

In an overwhelming 422-3 vote, followed by a unanimous vote in the Senate, lynching — a crime that has not been recorded in more than half a century — was upgraded to a hate crime. It’s the latest in the series of post-George Floyd virtue-signaling moves.

The bill’s author, Democratic Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, says its passage marked “a day of enormous consequence for our nation.” How? In a time people have been charged with hate crimes for yelling “White Power,” defacing a Black Lives Matter mural and throwing a smoothie, are we to believe that without this historic bill, lynching would go unpunished?

As this legislative push comes amid a backdrop of calls for honest history, we should assess it — and the history of lynching — in its proper context.

Lynching is defined as an extrajudicial killing, by hanging, committed by a group for an alleged offense without a legal trial. The overwhelming majority of American lynching victims were black, with most being guiltless targets of rabid racial animus. From 1882 to 1968, there were 4,742 lynching victims – 3,445 of them black, the most famous being Emmitt Till, the boy for whom this bill is named. Till was 14 years old when he was lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman. As gruesome as the details of Till’s murder are, a total of seven people have been lynched in the 67 years since his death and none in 54 years (unless you count the 1981 Mobile, Ala., kidnapping and hanging of Michael Donald.)

Often cited as the last lynching in America, Donald was killed by Henry Hays and James Knowles, young KKK members incensed over the failure of a Mobile jury to convict an African American man charged with the murder of a white policeman. Hays’ father, Bennie Jack Hays, second-highest-ranking official in the United Klans in Alabama at the time, was furious over the failed conviction and told the men “If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man.” While this does not meet the definition of a lynching, it has been over forty years since the murder. So why push this bill now?

Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, stated, “Officially designating lynching a federal hate crime is a powerful statement.” If a statement is all we need, wouldn’t a memorial or a holiday suffice?

For many, the bill advances the America-is-a-racist-nation narrative and maintains the belief that racism is part of daily life for blacks. This is not true and has not been for a long time.

To illustrate this, compare the lynching data with that on police shootings. We’ve been told for years that there’s an epidemic of police shooting, yet the stats say otherwise. According to The Washington Post, 7,139 people have been fatally shot and killed by police since 2015 – 1,592 of them black.

Emotional responses do nothing to solve real problems. And they detract from the honest history many claim they want taught and create the inaccurate belief that rare occurrences are the norm and should be viewed as imminent threats. Take, for instance, the 1992 hip-hop classic “Tennessee” by Arrested Development. In the song, lead rapper Speech says, “Climbed the trees my forefathers hung from / Ask those trees for all their wisdom.” For most blacks, it is about as likely that their forefathers were lynched as it is that their sibling was killed by police. But the sentiment expressed in the Arrested Development song is common among blacks.

In a final twist of irony, the bill may actually reduce the penalty for lynching. Most racially motivated murders now result in the death penalty. Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for killing nine members of a Charleston, South Carolina, church. James Byrd Jr.’s murderers were put to death, as were Michael Donald’s murderers. This bill makes the punishment for lynching “not more than 30 years” — not even life in prison.

We can, and should, teach the ugly history of anti-black violence — but not as a ubiquitous force. Nor should it be the driving directive of a presidential administration, as Joe Biden has promised. No one will be prosecuted because of this bill; it will only be used as a tool by progressive racists.

Thanks to this bipartisan farce, “anti-racist” teachers can now say, “See kids, America is so racist that in 2022, we needed to pass an anti-lynching law to protect blacks.” What a waste of our tax dollars.

Charles Love is the executive director of Seeking Educational Excellence, host of The Charles Love Show and author of “Race Crazy: BLM, 1619, and the Progressive Racism Movement.”