America’s slow-moving justice system could impede enforcement of a new anti-lynching measure that President Joe Biden signed into law this week, activists told Sputnik
WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 31st March, 2022) America’s slow-moving justice system could impede enforcement of a new anti-lynching measure that President Joe Biden signed into law this week, activists told Sputnik.
On Tuesday, Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law, marking the culmination of a more than century-long odyssey by African Americans to coax, cajole and shame Congress into passing Federal legislation that would make lynching a federal hate crime.
The measure is named after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy who was abducted, tortured and killed by two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, in 1955 after he was was accused of whistling at and grabbing Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. Bryant, Bryant’s husband, and Milam, Roy Bryant’s half-brother were all acquitted by an all-white jury.
The pair revealed in an interview for Look magazine that they had murdered Till and Carolyn Bryant told a historian five decades after the teen’s gruesome murder that Emmett had never touched her.
“Unfortunately, we have a strong, very strong anti-democratic and slow-moving justice system. It been moving very slowly ever since (civil rights activist) Ida B. Wells made lynching a national issue well over 100 years ago,” Dr. Bernard Demczuk, who taught African American history and culture at the DCPS school Without Walls for 13 years and is the faculty advisor of the GW Williams House (The Black House) at George Washington University, said.
“The democratic process has been blocked by rightwing ideologues who honestly believe this. This includes much of the Republican Party which has been able to block calls from Wells and others to make it a federal crime to lynch Black people,” he added.
Demczuk � a longtime DC resident who lectures widely on Black history and culture, labor history and governmental policy � said despite progress in a number of areas, some key issues around race haven’t changed.
“There are certain political groups who are unwilling to acknowledge racism lynching and white supremacy exists although it is evident to most people in America,” he said.
Demczuk mentioned the 2015 Charleston church shooting, in which teen Dylann Roof killed nine people, all African-Americans, at Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina.
“The Klan still exists. They have changed from robes to camouflage and toting AR-15s. And it’s legal. But I’m excited, happy, pleased that this is now law. Whatever Republicans did, thank you,” he continued.
Barbara R. Arnwine, a human rights and social justice attorney and longtime activist, echoed Demczuk, saying that while she expected the bill to pass Congress, Republicans have been essentially playing both ends against the middle.
“I think we know that the Republican Party wants to appeal to its racist base but can’t afford to do it in a consistent way,” Arnwine said.
In the end, Republicans have become masters at supporting “lightweight measures which will not change things substantially and won’t result in any systemic change,” Arnwine, who served as the executive director of the Lawyers‘ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law from 1989 until 2015, said.
Kerra Bolton, an independent filmmaker and former political strategist, said she was surprised by the bill’s passage.
“Yes, I’m surprised that it passed. White supremacy has a hold on the US and there is a strong desire to punish Black people in public spaces,” Bolton, a writer and documentarian, said.
“I believe passage of this bill is more symbolic than real, but some gestures make a difference. In the wake of the Arbery murder, it’s symbolic but meaningful.”
Bolton said the jury is still out about whether America has the capacity or the willingness to confront and deal with the country’s Original Sin – slavery – and the vast array of racist and racial tentacles that emanate from it.
“I have watched and sometimes been engaged in broader discussion about race and white people reveal themselves by what they say, defend and embrace,” she said softly.
“The question is if human beings can evolve. So many people are attached to the personaes and hold on tightly to what they think that represents. You see how people’s connection to white supremacy reveals itself.”
Bolton said overcoming this racial conundrum is truly difficult because these racist feelings are deeply engrained over centuries. She cautioned that Europeans aren’t the only ones who have work to do.
“For Black people, overcoming the trauma is our work to do. When the two proceed and work in parallel, we will be able to save ourselves. The country has to be committed to heal itself before it can save itself,” Bolton explained. “It’s sad. People keep dying because white people keep centering on themselves.”
At the bill signing in the Rose Garden, President Biden reminded those gathered that the freshly minted law “isn’t just about the past,” referring to the February 2020 murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed by three white men in Brunswick, Georgia while jogging in the area in what was classified as a racially-motivated hate crime.
He also spoke about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 where White nationalists marched and one killed Heather Heyer, a counter-protestor, and injured scores more when he drove through a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators.
Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush introduced the bill Biden made law. He introduced a similar version of his current bill in 2019. In 2020, the House of Representatives passed the bill but Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul refused to support the bill supposedly because it was too broad. He expressed his support of the bill earlier this month which opened the way for the US Senate unanimously passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act.
The bill passed the House of Representatives in February. Republican representatives Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Chip Roy of Texas were the only members to vote against the legislation.
Demczuk said Bryan Stevenson, through the Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,473 lynchings of mostly Black men, women and children, between 1868 and 1968.
“We know of another 3,000 people who’re missing and we can’t find them. They were likely lynched and tossed in a pond or a hole. We know how many people have been lynched. Why did it take so long?” Demczuk asked.
Demczuk, Arnwine, and other supporters of the bill, said Wells and other advocates had tried and failed to push through passage of federal anti-lynching legislation for more than a century.
“We’ve got to give Biden credit because he got it done,” Arnwine said.
This content was originally published here.