FROM PULPIT TO PUBLIC SQUARE
Marvin A. McMickle, Ph.D. March 30, 2022
I am glad that the United States government finally found the courage to pass an anti-lynching bill. What a shame they did not have the courage to do it in the 1920s after the Dyer anti-lynching bill was first introduced in 1918. Someone has reintroduced that bill in every congressional session since that time, and every Congress has refused to act on such a bill until now. Too bad Congress could not find the courage to oppose lynching in the 1930s or 40s or 50s or 60s when African Americans were being lynched (killed by a mob outside of a judicial process) by rope, gun, whip, or burning in every state in this country! Emmett Till was lynched in 1955. Ahmaud Arbery was lynched in 2021. They joined the nearly 3500 men, women, and children who were brutally and unlawfully murdered by mobs who often brought their children to witness the mayhem.
There is little doubt that the impulse to conduct a lynching still lurks in the hearts of some people in this country that continues to masquerade as a Christian nation beneath the banner of “liberty and justice for all.” Making lynch mob justice a federal offense will likely give pause to those whose racism, joined with a violent temperament, might have led them to carry out such an act at an earlier time in history.
I am heartened by this development in our nation’s legal and political systems. However, I do not think this action in 2022 warrants the red badge of courage. Doing this in 1922 could have saved thousand of innocent lives and spared the grief of thousands of families that watched the killing or buried the remains of their loved ones.
Let us not forget that Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky had blocked discussion of this bill for over one year, because he wanted to know what actions might legally constitute a lynching. His objections resulted in keeping this bill from being passed by the Congress in 2020. However, whether it was 2020 or 2022, this country has taken more than 100 years to declare that lynch mob justice is an illegal action and should be treated as a hate crime.
People would do well to read and reflect on the book, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America by Philip Dray that reports on the 3,417 lynchings of black people between 1886 and 1944. (P. viii). That means lynching had been a common practice involving both black people and poor white people for more than 30 years before the Dyer bill was introduced in 1918!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often said, “the time is always right to do what is right.” It seems racism in the country and cowardice in the Congress over the last 100 years prevented the time from being right to criminalize lynch mob justice.