President Joe Biden signed a historic bill into law on Tuesday (March 29), making lynching a federal hate crime. The signing comes after decades of failed attempts to get the heinous act categorized as a hate crime given its continued use on Black Americans for generations.
“Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone … belongs in America, not everyone is created equal” Biden said during the Rose Garden signing ceremony. “Terror, to systematically undermine hard-fought civil rights. Terror, not just in the dark of the night but in broad daylight. Innocent men, women and children hung by nooses in trees, bodies burned and drowned and castrated.”
“Their crimes? Trying to vote. Trying to go to school. Trying to own a business or preach the gospel. False accusations of murder, arson and robbery. Simply being Black,” he added.
Before the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022 passed, others like it failed in Congress more than 200 times –– as recently as 2018, despite the lynchings continuing. The historic legislation is named after the 14-year-old Emmett Till who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman.
In 1981, Michael Donald was lynched by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. His tragic killing sparked a landmark lawsuit, led by his mother, Beulah Mae Donald, which effectively bankrupted the white supremacist organization.
Biden also acknowledged that the bill “isn’t just about the past” while referencing the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery by three white men in Georgia and the 2017 white nationalist rally that left one person dead and dozens injured.
“From the bullets in the back of Ahmaud Arbery to countless other acts of violence, countless victims known and unknown, the same racial hatred that drove the mob carrying torches out of the fields of Charlottesville just a few years ago –– racial hate isn’t an old problem. It’s a persistent problem.”
His remarks also brought to the forefront “the talk” that many Black children still receive about going out into the world and being perceived as a threat or criminal. “That same admonition –– too many Black parents still have to use that. They have to tell their children that when it comes to encounters with law enforcement,” he said.
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