On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would classify lynching as a hate crime. Somehow, in 2018, this act of violence fueled by racism was not already classified as such.
The bill was introduced to the Senate by the three black senators currently serving (out of the 100 senators we have): Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). The bill would classify lynching as an extrajudicial mob killing, which would be an additional charge on top of murder. It would be punishable by up to life in prison.
According to the New York Times, over 200 bills have been introduced in Congress from 1882 to 1986, yet none were approved. During the same time period, 3,446 black people were lynched, as reported by the NAACP. Obviously, this legislation is long overdue.
In a tweet about the legislation, Harris described lynching as a "dark and despicable aspect of our nation's history," and said that "we must acknowledge that fact, lest we repeat it." In October of this year, a Ferguson protestor alleged that her son was lynched in retaliation for her activism, so this bill could still be considered necessary.
Booker also tweeted about the unanimous vote, tweeting a poem by Maya Angelou which reads, "History,/ despite its/ wrenching pain,/ Cannot be unlived,/ but if faced with courage,/ need not be lived again."
This vote, though it should have been made over a century ago, is nevertheless a milestone victory against a horrible practice. "Today," Booker said, "we have righted that wrong and taken corrective action that recognizes this stain on our country's history." It's about time.