According to American rhetoric lynching is a civil right. (Waldrep, New York Press. pg. 1). This Eurocentric culture occurred in England, Germany, Israel, Mexico, etc. (pg. 1). The term “Lynch Law” was coined during American slavery. (pg. xvii). When a mob or organization determined that a person(s) violated community code (i.e. running away; reading literature; touching white women) they would lynch as punishment for the ‘crime’. Lynching is a planned, orchestrated, and premeditated murder. The violent act is politicked by local neighborhoods and community members.
There were few federal laws in the U.S. before 1865. Communities and cities took responsibility in determining law and punishment within their jurisdiction. The concept of hanging people by their necks from a tree became a social norm in America. It was tradition in many Southern states.
Lynching is a community law
The United States Constitution does not mention lynching. Presidents like Andrew Jackson (D) [1829-1837] did not oppose lynching. In fact, President Jackson endorsed this tradition. (xvii). If there is no federal or state law opposing a particular behavior then it can be deemed a civil right under community law. In other words, communities determine law within their municipality until state/federal intervention determines otherwise. For example, education is not mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore, under federal law parents do not need to send their children to school unless state or local statue determines otherwise.
Lynching during Jim Crow [1896-1965]
Most neighborhoods took it upon themselves to create their own laws. American communities in the South increased lynching in the 1880s and 1890s (most of which were Black victims). Lynchings increased with the intention of forcing Black constituents to vote democratic. (Waldrep, pg. 5). Another reason is due to the fact that whites found it feasible to take the law into their own hands to preserve the racial caste system. (pg. 13). If a Black man was accused of raping a white woman, white men acted on their right to protect their women by lynching and mutilating Black men, which ignored the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment.
Lynching is a community effort sought out by a way of tradition and civil liberties. Lynching is essentially not a federal crime. For example, the elimination of slavery required Amendments to eradicate the tradition nationwide. It is dependent on states and municipalities to convict lynchers. For example in Texas it is declared that lynchers can be convicted and sentenced to death for the crime of lynching. (Samuels, 2020).
Conclusion – The “Excuse” for Reparations
The federal government has failed to legislate an anti-lynching bill for over one-hundred years. In fact, most states failed to protect minorities as 99% of lynchers got away with violence according to H.R. 35 Emmitt Till Antilynching Act. (U.S. Congress, 2019). In 2020, the bill passed through the House but stalled in the Senate. Indeed there are multiple arguments as to why the bill did not become law, but the fact that most House of Representatives are willing to accept an anti-lynching bill with only a 10-year maximum sentence is something to ponder. Perhaps I would refuse the bill as a Senator too. A lynch mob deserves more than a 10-year sentence. Not to mention, where is the Reparations clause for emotional and traumatic grievance? My 80 year old grandmother from Louisiana still remembers lynchings during her childhood and she is uncomfortable speaking about the topic.
Samuels, Alex. (2020). U.S. Rep Louie Gohmert of Texas one of four House members to vote against anti-lynching bill. The Texas Tribune https://www.texastribune.org/2020/02/26/texas-congressman-louis-gohmert-votes-against-anti-lynching-bill/
United States Congress – Rush, Bobby [D-IL]. (2019). H.R. 35 Emmitt Till Antilynching Act. congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/35/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22bobby+rush+and+antilynching%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=3
Waldrep, Christopher. (2006). A History in Documents: Lynching in America. New York, NY. New York University.