US President Biden has signed a law that would label lynching in criminal law as a separate crime. The first bill to call lynching as a federal hate crime was introduced more than 120 years ago. Last month, the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed.
The law is officially called the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act and is named after 14-year-old black boy Emmett Till. In 1955, he was kidnapped and killed in Mississippi after whistling at a white woman. Two white men were acquitted by an all-white jury, but later recognized that they had killed the boy.
His mother insisted that he get an open chest so everyone could see how her son was tapped. Tills death is seen as one of the triggers for the American civil rights movement that emerged during that period.
At the signing of the law, Biden took a look at the long time it took to enact this law. “Thank you for never giving up.”
The president called the violent murdering of black Americans a way to intimidate them. “Lynching was pure terror to hold on to the lie that not everyone in America belongs, that not everyone is born equal.”
In 1900, George Henry White, the only black Congressman at the time, submitted the first proposal for a specific law against lynching. Almost two hundred times it stranded in the votes of the House of Representatives or the Senate. For the current bill there was an overwhelming majority in both parliaments.
By law, multiple people who kill or badly injure someone together with a hate motif can be prosecuted for lynching. The maximum penalty is 30 years in prison.
According to experts, the law has mostly symbolic value, to reflect on past atrocities. Still, President Biden stressed that the law is actually needed against contemporary forms of racist terrorism. “Racial hatred is not an old problem, it is persistent.”