I guess that Congress would like me to feel proud that we at last have a Federal law criminalizing the vicious terrorism, and utterly lawless crime of lynching.
I suppose I should be relieved that it has finally been formally criminalized.
But I am not proud. I am ashamed. Deeply, achingly ashamed.
Congress has failed to enact this plainly obvious legislation almost two-hundred times since 1900. TWO-HUNDRED TIMES. In the 120 years between 1900 and 2020, Congress has never heretofore decided that this legislation was worthy. Not during the heyday of “Jim Crow.” Not during the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Not during the racial tensions preceding the Civil Rights Era, and not during it or thereafter.
Not in a dozen decades has Congress had the courage or principle to do the right thing before today. Today. Two decades into the 21st Century.
If there is any piece of evidence that shows how slowly we have progressed, surely this is it. How could it have ever been a question to make lynching a crime? And by the time of Emmet Till’s murder, sixty-five years ago, it was already long overdue to treat lynchings as especially heinous. But to have allowed twelve decades to have elapsed before today’s legislation is a disgrace that fully covers this nation with a heavy blanket of grievous shame! Yes, it is right to finally accomplish this. But the circumstances are still a deep and pervasive shame.
I am glad this is finally going to be sent to the President for his signature, which surely will happen, no matter his personal preferences, but I am ashamed that it has taken twice my entire life-span to come to pass.