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All 100 Senators Agree That Black Lives Should Matter A Little

Post-Racial America

It's hard to imagine all 100 members of the Senate agreeing on anything, even a pro-mouthwash bill, but that's what happened Wednesday when the Senate unanimously passed a bill making lynching a federal crime. The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act was introduced in June by the Senate's three black members: Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott. Along with at least one good macaroni and cheese dish at Senate potlucks, this is one of the upsides of having three black senators all at once.

If the bill gets through the House -- and it's sad that it didn't seem to be Paul Ryan's priority, as he was busy standing up for the oppressed Irish -- it would add a "lynching" section to federal civil rights law. It doesn't make for pleasant reading, but it will state that if at least two people kill someone because of the victim's race or religion, they can face life in prison if convicted. Someone like Tucker Carlson might suggest anti-lynching legislation is redundant when the act itself is arguably already covered under current hate-crime laws, but that's only because they're racist. Lynching occurred with such impunity that it's important to single it out now as something uniquely abhorrent under the law.


"Lynchings were needless and horrendous acts of violence that were motivated by racism," Ms. Harris said in a statement. "And we must acknowledge that fact, lest we repeat it."

Kamala Harris is a lawyer, so I'm confident she double-checked the text and made sure it hadn't somehow been altered to an anti-anti-lynching bill. You can't help but get a little suspicious when the entire Senate's on board, including Rand "The Civil Rights Act Sucks" Paul and ongoing embarrassment Cindy Hyde-Smith. Mississippi's public hanging aficionado was presiding officer in the Senate when the bill passed. You just know this made her white hood blue. Imagine a Senator Michael Jordan having to preside over passage of anti-dunk shot legislation.

The text of the bill calls out lynching as the "ultimate expression of racism in the United States." According to the NAACP, at least 4,742 people, most of them black or black-adjacent, were lynched in the US between 1882 and 1968, and 99 percent of all perpetrators escaped punishment. The 1 percent must have been black folks who lynched black folks but then later got lynched themselves.

Congress had tried 200 times previously to pass anti-lynching legislation without success. That's slightly less often than Hollywood has failed to make a decent movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby. The first anti-lynching bill was introduced 100 years ago by Missouri Republican Representative Leonidas Dyer, who was appalled by the race riots in St. Louis at the time (somehow there was racial division prior to Barack Obama's presidency). It demonstrates how significantly the political landscape has changed that so much about the preceding sentence is confusing.

White Southern Democrats in the Senate blocked the bill through filibuster three times. Senator Lee S. Overman of North Carolina told the New York Times that the "good negroes of the South did not want the legislation for 'they do not need it'." He was probably not the best spokesperson for what "negroes" good or bad wanted. You wonder how many lynchings he attended.

"For over a century, members of Congress have attempted to pass some version of a bill that would recognize lynching for what it is: a bias-motivated act of terror," Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who introduced the bill, said in a statement. "Today, we have righted that wrong and taken corrective action that recognizes this stain on our country's history."

It was great to see Harris essentially oversee passage of the bill. She helped make good on the work of literal "anti-Lynching crusaders" Ida B. Wells, Mary Burnett Talbert, and Angelina Grimké, who all risked life and limb for suggesting that white people not kill us. Harris took their torch a much-needed light at a time when the FBI reports hate crimes have increased for the third consecutive year since 2016. This was not a mere symbolic act but in fact deterrence. The past, unfortunately, is never truly past.

Follow Stephen Robinson on Twitter.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Seattle. However, he's more reliable for food and drink recommendations in Portland, where he spends a lot of time for theatre work. His co-adaptation of "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins runs from March through May at Pioneer Square's Cafe Nordo.

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CLEAR YOUR CALENDARS FOR FEBRUARY 7! And then fill them back up with whatever the fuck you want, because Michael Cohen has announced through his lawyers that he is too scared to testify before an open session of Congress that day, citing threats to his family from Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

Wonkette has no reason to believe Cohen isn't being serious here, and NBC News reports Cohen's wife and father-in-law are particularly concerned about their safety if the man who used to call his boss MIS-TURRRR TWUMP goes to Congress and tells the truth this time. Still, we must pause to note that this is the same guy who said this to NPR reporter Tim Mak, back when Mak was at The Daily Beast:

"I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we're in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don't have," Cohen told Mak [...] "And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know."

"So I'm warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?"

It's not so fun when the shoe is on the other foot, IS IT, MICHAEL?

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Did Nancy Pelosi do something to give Donald Trump the mistaken impression he has leverage here? We don't remember her doing anything like that!

Trump sent Pelosi a letter this morning to say that, despite how she told him to stay the fuck out of her House because of his government shutdown, he would still be coming to the House on January 29 to deliver his State of the Union address. And for some weird-ass reason, Trump and his advisers in the White House actually thought she would back down. It's both hilarious and alarming that Trump and his people are that stupid, isn't it?

Anyway, Pelosi took the dare. She took the dare. Was there anybody besides those dumb fucking idiots in the White House who thought she wouldn't take the dare?

Pelosi sent a letter right back to Trump to kindly explain to him that no means "go fuck yourself," and that if he'd like her to stick her foot further up his ass and kick it around a bunch, he's welcome to test her some more:

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