Rand Paul Demands Anti-Lynching Bill Cover Only Highest-Quality Lynchings
Fred Rogers famously told us to "look for the helpers" during a time of crisis. Well, what if you're someone who enjoys lynching black people and the Senate is close to passing an anti-lynching bill? Don't worry. You still have a friend in Rand Paul.
Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky, where at least 138 black people were lynched between 1877 and 1934. (This is why when conservatives say, “What about black-on-black crime?" I respond, “We're just trying to catch up, motherfucker!"). He is the only senator in a Senate with Republicans in it who insists on obstructing a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. His half-assed excuse is that he's afraid the legislation could be “wrongly applied." What does that even mean? Is he worried that people who've been lynched could end up charged with lynching? I suppose that kind of legal trouble is the last thing a lynching victim would need on top of their deadness.
From the Washington Post:
"We think that lynching is an awful thing that should be roundly condemned, that should be universally condemned," Paul told reporters at the Capitol.
Dear God, he's gonna add a “but" to this, isn't he?
But he said the bill might "conflate lesser crimes with lynching," which Paul said would be a "disservice to those who were lynched in our history" and result in "a new 10-year penalty for people who have minor bruising."
“Minor bruising"? What the fuck is he ... I'm sorry. I just can't. Ms. Kahn, could you come over here for a moment?
I don't think the spirits of 4,743 American lynching victims are going to complain because the Zimmermans and McMichaels aren't setting black people on fire anymore during their extrajudicial killings. “What? You mean, they just shoot 'em? Where's the razzle dazzle?" It's not like Katharine Hepburn learning in the afterlife that she has the same award for acting as Emma Stone. This isn't a competition.
Paul wants to add a new "serious bodily injury standard" to the legislation and ensure that you can only prosecute crimes as lynchings if they result in a "substantial risk of death and extreme physical pain." I guess all other hate crimes are just "welcome to the neighborhood" hazings.
The Marshall Project examined 400,000 homicides between 1980 and 2014, and whenever a white person killed a black person, it was eight times more likely to be considered justifiable. White people — and that's who Paul is worried about here — aren't in danger of serving 10-year stretches because their black victim had some “minor bruising." The black person is more likely to get charged with assaulting their knuckles.
Ron Paul, the senator's crackpot father, thinks the 1964 Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional and violated the rights of racists. There's a family history of the Paul family standing on the wrong side of history.
In 1899, a Kentucky mob attacked Richard Coleman on his way to court. The young black man was accused of raping and murdering the wife of a white farmer. The mob tied a rope around his neck and dragged him about town in search of a place to hang him until someone got tired and suggested burning him alive instead. People gathered to watch and took home Coleman's teeth, fingers and toes as souvenirs, because racism turns white people into common Hannibal Lecters.
Black men accused of crimes against white people were brutally murdered in similar ways. They never made it to their sham trials. Black men executed by cops or vigilantes because they “fit a description" or looked like a “bad dude" might've died in less grotesque ways but these are still lynchings. The motivation is the same, as well as the chilling effect on an entire community.
Last year, Lindsey Graham described Donald Trump's impeachment trial as a “lynching in every sense." That is a “disservice" to lynching victims. This bill isn't, and Paul needs to get out the way of its passage.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."