The U.S. Senate’s only Black lawmakers are banding together to roll out tougher legislation against lynching.
According to The Hill, Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott are working to make lynching a federal hate crime, with the support of 18 other senators.
“Lynching is a dark, despicable part of our history, and we must acknowledge that, lest we repeat it,” Harris said in a statement on Friday.
Scott is the only Republican senator to support the bill so far.
“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. “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.”
To get the bill through the Senate, Booker, Scott, and Harris will need either the support of 60 senators or a deal to pass the bill by a voice vote.
But many are actually surprised that such a bill doesn’t already exist. Booker called the lack of anti-lynching legislation “ a travesty.”
“This sends a very powerful message,” Booker told The New York Times. “Literally thousands of African-Americans were being lynched throughout history, and the Senate never stepped up to pass any legislation to stop this heinous, despicable behavior.”
According to Harris’ office, Congress has tried but failed to pass anti-lynching legislation roughly 200 times since 1918.
”Gosh, I thought we did that many years ago,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said recently when asked if he would support an anti-lynching law. “Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it. I thought that was done back during LBJ or some period like that. But if we need one at the federal level, I certainly would support it.”
Although lynchings are rare today, there are still incidents of lynching and noose intimidation.
The nation’s first memorial to the victims of lynching opened in Alabama this past April. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice commemorates 4,400 African Americans who were killed in lynchings and other racism-related murders between 1877 and 1950.