Updated: Jun 7
It’s 2020 and your country, America, is in the throes of civil unrest after witnessing the police kill yet another unarmed black man, asphyxiating him on camera in a video that has resulted in global condemnation.
At the same time, you’re a U.S. Senator, charged with advancing legislation for your country that should be uncontentious: an anti-lynching bill, one that makes this heinous act a federal crime.
If you’re Kamala Harris (D-CA) or Cory Booker (D-NJ) you work tirelessly to secure the signatures needed to make the bill a law. But if you’re Rand Paul (R-KY), you twice try to offer non-relevant amendments to the House-passed legislation trying to kill it, adding insult to grievous injury.
Rand Paul argues that his most recent attempt at amendment is needed because as the proposed legislation currently stands, “any bodily, including a cut, an abrasion, or a bruise, physical pain, illness or other injury to the body” could be called lynching.
This is the latest of similar stall tactics he’s pulled to prevent this bill from passing. This goes without saying, but it’s unnecessary in an anti-lynching bill to add an amendment that paper cuts, stepping on someone’s toes or a slap to the face aren’t lynching, but this is Rand Paul’s argument.
Thus defines the malcontent of Rand Paul.
His entire argument is predicated on the fact that this anti-lynching legislation as written could result in convicting a person who had committed a lesser offense of the crime of lynching. In my lifetime, I’m not aware of one person who was charged with lynching who’d actually thrown a punch in a bar fight or on a playground.
That’s why his argument is nonsensical and insulting. It’s also a clear stall tactic. But, the time for stalling over this issue is over.
The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act
The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) in January of 2019. Let’s set aside for the moment that the U.S. has tried and failed for 120 years to pass federal anti-lynching legislation and cut to the chase: the brutal and barbaric practice of hanging black bodies until their death in the U.S. is well-known, well-documented and indisputably the most horrendous of racial intimidation acts.
And yet…401 years after the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to America, there is no law punishing lynching as a federal crime, which would automatically mean a much harsher sentence. One hundred and fifty-five years after the abolition of slavery there is no federal law, and 66 years after the death of Emmett Till, there is no federal law.
Passing a federal anti-lynching law is not just long overdue, but would come at what is the most significant period of racial unrest and tension in the United States since the Civil Rights era. A time of unrest brought about following the killing of an unarmed black by a white police officer, who for eight minutes, blocked the airway of that man with his knee across his throat, cutting off his air.
It is a manner of death similar to lynching, the forced blocking of the airway cutting off breath. And yet, neither of the officers charged with the crime were charged with lynching. Because as gruesome, heinous and barbaric as that act it was, it wasn’t lynching.
I don’t think anyone other than Rand Paul would be confused by that. Though, I’d argue that Rand Paul isn’t confused at all. He just doesn’t want the bill to become a law.
While we will never know all the reasons why Rand Paul is single-handedly holding up anti-lynching legislation at a time when the country most needs clear, definitive action at the federal level making lynching (and other hate acts) a federal crime, we do know that adult temper tantrums are antithetical to fully functioning government. But this tantrum isn’t just juvenile, but also reckless and callous.
Bruises aren’t lynching. Minor cuts aren’t lynching. An anti-lynching bill needn’t spell this out. As a medical doctor, Rand Paul knows this, but he simply doesn’t care. It’s just a stalling tactic to delay legislation that he simply doesn’t want to pass.
And that’s the real crime.