The House of Representatives on Monday night passed The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which would make lynching a federal hate crime. The bill received unanimous support save for three Republicans. Reps. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), and Chip Roy (R-Texas) opposed the bill.
In explaining his “no” vote, Massie wrote in a Twitter thread that designating enhanced penalties “for ‘hate’ tends to endanger other liberties such as freedom of speech.” He also argued that lynching is illegal in all states already.
Roy issued a statement Tuesday explaining his decision. “Lynching is an unspeakably heinous crime,” he said. “But this bill doesn’t have anything to do with lynching, other than its name.” He called the bill “an effort to advance a woke agenda under the guise of correcting racial injustice” and said it is a “matter for the states.”
A representative for Clyde did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone.
In a statement following the bill’s passage, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, who introduced the bill, recalled the killing of Emmett Till. Till, a 14 year-old child, was killed in 1955 by a group that accused him of flirting with a white woman. “I was eight years old when my mother put the photograph of Emmett Till’s brutalized body that ran in Jet magazine on our living room coffee table, pointed to it, and said, ‘This is why I brought my boys out of Albany, Georgia,’” Rush said. “That photograph shaped my consciousness as a black man in America, changed the course of my life, and changed our nation.”
Rush on Twitter called out the three Republicans who voted against the legislation, noting that Roy once described lynching as “an example of justice.”
Who were the 3 votes against the #AntilynchingAct tonight?👇🏾
Andrew Clyde, GA: Called the 1/6 insurrection a “normal tourist visit”
Thomas Massie, KY: Wrote a bill to allow guns in school zones
Chip Roy, TX: Called lynching an “example of justice”
All Republicans. Surprised?
— Bobby L. Rush (@RepBobbyRush) March 1, 2022
Roy’s remarks came last year during a hearing about Asian-American hate crimes. “We believe in justice. There’s old sayings in Texas about ‘find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree,’” he said. “You know, we take justice very seriously, and we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys. That’s what we believe.”
Many Democrats condemned his comments, with Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa calling his words “a white supremacist dog whistle you can spot from a mile away.”
Asked to clarify his statement, Roy doubled down. “Apparently some folks are freaking out that I used an old expression about finding all the rope in Texas and a tall oak tree about carrying out justice against bad guys. I meant it. We need more justice and less thought policing,” he said, adding, “No apologies.”
The House voted to pass a version of Till Antilynching Act in 2020 (with four House Republicans, including Massie, voting against it). It then went to the Senate where it was held up by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Paul argued that making lynching a hate crime might lead to people being sentenced too harshly. “This bill would cheapen the meaning of lynching by defining it so broadly as to include a minor bruise or abrasion,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor. “Our national history of racial terrorism demands more seriousness of us than that.”
Lynching was used in the 19th and 20th centuries as a “popular way of resolving some of the anger that whites had in relation to free blacks,” according to the NAACP. Records kept by the organization counted 4,743 lynchings in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968, although historians believe the actual number of lynchings has been underreported. Most victims, approximately 72 percent, were black, but immigrants and other people of color were also victims of lynching.
Numerous anti-lynching bills have been introduced to Congress since a 1918 anti-lynching bill, the Dyer Bill, was introduced to Congress but blocked by a Senate filibuster.