The Real Reason Lynching Is Still Not A Federal Crime

"You think I take joy in being here? I will be excoriated by simple minded people on the internet who think somehow I don't like Emmet Till or appreciate the history or memory of Emmett Till."

According to the New York Times, that's what Senator Rand Paul said after blocking an otherwise unopposed Senate bill which would designate lynching a federal crime in June of 2020. The bill, which by its own description would "amend section 249 of title 18, United States Code, to specify lynching as a hate crime act," has been a long time coming. In 1900, Rep. George Henry White of North Carolina proposed similar legislation, receiving applause on the House floor before having his bill voted down. Arguments against anti-lynching legislation ran the gamut from state's rights to a particularly bleak what-if scenario from a Rep. Williams of Mississippi, quoted by White in his statements — a position that basically came down to, "But what if we really, really want to lynch somebody?"

Very much on-rand

"State's rights" continued to be the backbone of resistance to anti-lynching legislation proposed in 1922 and 1934, and with the help of strategic fillibustering, the New York Times reports that efforts to make lynching a federal offence were shelved again and again. The Senate went so far as to offer an official apology for their inability to successfully pass a bill on the matter in 2005.

That said, over 4,000 recorded lynchings have taken place in the United States. At a point in American history when racial tensions have boiled over into the streets, when pirating a copy of An Extremely Goofy Movie is a federal crime but racially motivated mob violence is not, Senator Rand Paul currently stands as the only obstacle to new legislation moving forward. The Kentucky politician's reasoning: He doesn't feel that the language in the proposed bill is specific enough. In his own words: "This bill would cheapen the meaning of lynching by defining it so broadly as to include a minor bruise or abrasion ... Our national history of racial terrorism demands more seriousness of us than that.