Can SC’s Tim Scott pass historic legislation for African-Americans?
South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott has teamed up with the U.S. Senate’s only two other African-American senators to try to pass a historic civil rights law.
Scott has introduced federal legislation to ban lynching, along with Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California.
“This measure is certainly well past due, and I am glad to be able to join in efforts that will underscore the severity of this crime,” Scott said in a statement as the bill was introduced June 29. “This piece of legislation sends a message that together, as a nation, we condemn the actions of those that try to divide us with violence and hate.”
If passed, the legislation would fulfill a longtime goal of the civil rights movement. By the New York Times’ count, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress from 1882 to 1986. None were approved.
This bill may be different, however. Sixteen other senators have signed on to the bill, including the Senate’s GOP leader, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell. Similar legislation also has been proposed in the House.
Scott, first appointed to the Senate in 2012 by then-Gov. Nikki Haley, is the chamber’s only African-American Republican. He also is the first African-American to represent South Carolina in the U.S. Senate.
It is believed that more than 4,000 African-Americans dating to the 1800s were lynched, including at least 160 recorded lynchings in South Carolina between 1882 and 1968.
Lynching is murder, predominantly of blacks, suspected of crimes or simply violating the social codes of segregation. The victims often were publicly killed by mobs without due process, with the tacit approval of local and state authorities who never prosecuted the killers.
Under Scott’s bill, lynching would be punishable by life in prison, on top of any state-level murder charges.
The bill would define lynching as “the willful act of murder by a collection of people assembled with the intention of committing an act of violence upon any person” and make it a hate crime.
The last time the Senate acted on the issue was in 2005, when senators formally apologized to the victims of lynching and their descendants for the Senate’s failure to pass any anti-lynching laws.