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It’s election season so Republicans in Congress are jumping-on the political correctness bandwagon to keep from giving their November ballot opponents reason to accuse them of being racist. An example of this is the Emmett Till Antilynching Bill that passed the House in February with only four opposing votes and is now in the Senate where it has 45 recorded co-sponsors, 16 of whom are Republicans. It has been reported that 99 senators support the bill so passage seems almost certain.
This is far from the first time anti-lynching legislation has been brought up in the Congress and you have to give the proponents props for tenacity because bills have been introduced no less than 200 times. That’s 1.3 attempts per year since the end of the American Civil War.
Anyone with a sense for detecting political correctness would not be surprised by seeing the names of failed Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) on the list of sponsors. But what would really peg the needles of their PC detectors is seeing the name of Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. On the one hand Scott’s support seems logical because he is the first black person ever elected to the Senate from that state and his support will likely make him look more attractive to black voters. On the other hand, Scott has been vocal about the need to stop letting racial issues divide us. He supported the First Step Act that does things like reduce the length of sentences imposed on non-violent offenders so fewer blacks will be sent to prison for long periods.
Why is Sen. Scott supporting the anti-lynching bill 52 years after the last time anyone was lynched? He’s pandering for votes so he’s willing to play along with the current racial fever in America enough that he can’t be accused of being against blacks.
Still, emotions flashed hot in the Senate on Saturday when the bill was brought up for debate and Sen. Rand Paul voiced his concerns that the language in the bill was too broad and non-specific so it needed to be refined. That quickly drew sharp criticism from other senators including Harris, Booker and Scott, who delivered impassioned speeches assailing him and sometimes tearfully arguing that it was necessary. But in an Op-Ed in Monday’s Louisville Courier-Journal Sen. Paul said he was not blocking the bill but trying to enhance it by keeping it focused on lynching instead of other offenses. He wanted to prevent over-zealous prosecutors from using it to coerce innocent defendants into pleading guilty because they could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison for an offense where the penalty is far shorter. To illustrate he cited the case of Tiffany Harris, a black woman from New York who was arrested in December and charged with misdemeanors after slapping three Jewish women and using a racial slur. The misdemeanor charges could get her up to one year in jail, but Sen. Paul argued the vague language in the anti-lynching bill would allow prosecutors to turn her misdemeanor into a felony just because their victim was the member of another race and if the bill became law someone like her could instead be facing up to ten years in prison.
One of the justifications listed in the language of the bill is the claim that 4,742 blacks have been lynched in America since 1800. The murder of George Floyd has ignited a fire of passion on racial issues so the bill is expected to be passed in the Senate. The question is if it will be modified and have to go back to the house for the language to be reconciled.
The anti-lynching bill is just the latest in what Sen. Paul said was a 50 year-long history of hate crimes legislation in America. The concept of hate crimes laws is that offenses committed by persons of one race (whites) against another (blacks) is because of historic animosity and thus an additional penalty is justified. However, there are some significant problems with that concept.
First, if it becomes law the bill would create a legal inequality based on race when the foremost and greatest objective of the civil rights movement has been the elimination of racial inequality in the law. Equality does not exist if new laws are written with animosity or favor toward one race but not everyone else.
Second, lynching is a historic problem, not a current one. Civil rights advocates use lynching as an emotional “hot button” that gets hit with great regularity to preserve the illusion of risk to their people and justify more government protections. In doing that they’re like Pumbaa in “The Lion King” where his friend Timon is counseling him to put his past behind him but Pumbaa reverses the mantra and begins repeating he needs to “put my behind past me.” Focusing on the past prevents addressing the present or planning for the future.
Third, using hate as the basis for adding up to ten years to a person’s prison sentence is a useless duplication in the law because most states give judges a range of penalties and they are already expected to consider extenuating factors such as racial animosity when deciding how severely to punish an offender. Adding another ten years is just political correctness given the force of law.
Fourth is the illusion that an additional risk will dissuade anyone from committing a crime. If that was true we wouldn’t have as many people committing crimes or returning to crime after being released from prison. So thinking anyone will be deterred from committing a crime against a person of a different race is taking popular illogic to the extreme.
Today we are being bombarded with all sorts of politically-correct claims about how America must be changed if we are to resolve racial tension when the real solution requires not one new law. We simply need to follow the “golden rule” given to us by Jesus: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
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