SC Sen. Tim Scott for years tried to make lynching a federal hate crime. Now, it will be
It took more than a century and almost 200 attempts, but Monday night the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that will finally make lynching a federal hate crime in America.
Long championed by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the anti-lynching legislation faced no opposition when it came before the Senate floor in a mostly empty chamber Monday night, making its passage a quiet moment that carries historic implications.
Some 122 years after an anti-lynching bill was first proposed by a Black congressman from North Carolina, a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime is on its way to the president’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.
“Tonight the Senate passed my anti-lynching legislation, taking a necessary and long-overdue step toward a more unified and just America,” Scott tweeted shortly after the bill passed by unanimous consent, a practice that allows legislation to pass without a roll call vote so long as there is no senator present to object.
“After working on this issue for years, I am glad to have partnered with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally get this done,” Scott said.
Scott had tried to get this legislation passed since the summer of 2018, when he worked with Booker and then-Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
In May 2020, after the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, Scott compared the 25-year-old Black jogger’s killing in Brunswick, Georgia, to the lynching deaths of other Black people, including Till.
“Congress can do our part — starting with finally fully passing anti-lynching legislation. However, as a nation, we have to admit some hard truths,” Scott tweeted in a three-part Twitter thread at the time. “#AhmaudArbery is far from the first person of color to meet this fate. But his life, or James Byrd’s, or Emmett Till’s, can’t be forgotten. The only way we can stop this is together, as one American family. It’s too late for Ahmaud; let’s ensure his memory powers a better future.”
The three white men convicted of Arbery’s murder were found guilty of federal hate crimes in a jury trial last month.
In a floor speech last week, Scott urged his colleagues to pass the anti-lynching bill into law, whether it was the Senate version he led with Booker or the one filed in the House. “If it takes a new name and minor tweaks to get this legislation signed into law — legislation that has failed 200 times — I welcome a new name, I welcome some technical changes,” Scott said.
He later added, “Let this year be the year we put politics to the side and we get it done.”
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