LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Emmett Till, a Black boy, was just 14 years old when he was killed in Mississippi - after being accused of whistling at a white woman in 1955. Now, nearly 100 years later President Joe Biden passed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act that makes lynching a federal hate crime.
This comes after more than 100 years and attempts to get anti-lynching laws passed in the US.
In his remarks, President Biden said, "Racial hate isn't an old problem, it's a persistent problem."
Lexington and Fayette County's president of the NAACP and Executive Director of the Lyric Theater, Whit Whitaker, reminds us that this isn't the first time an act like this has come up.
"Two hundred times that this bill has come forward and no one thought that it was important enough. We've had over 4,000 lynchings from 1877 to 1950-ish."
Nearly 100 years after the passing of Emmett Till, many people are asking if this act is being passed too late?
"It's important that we have this legislation especially when you think about the fact that it’s not just single acts, but it’s about a system. It’s a systemic discrimination, retaliation against people because of their ethnicity,” says Adrian Wallace, a leader with the Kentucky Branch of the NAACP and a mayoral candidate in Lexington.
Wallace says that while lynchings of the past may not occur in the same ways today, there are still issues with unjust deaths of people of color.
"What we need to know is that this is an important step to move forward. Again, where there's no common memory there can be no true community. And, when we understand the history of racism that this country has perpetuated against people of color -- this is a necessity,” says Wallace.
While Wallace agrees this passing is late, he says it’s not too late -- as it's an opportunity for communities to come together.
Fayette County's NAACP President believes politicians need to now focus on racial disparities and programs that uplift communities.
Whitaker says, "Yes, this anti-lynching bill is 100 plus years too late, but we are still fighting. Don't give up continue to hold your politicians and community leaders to a higher standard."
These leaders are continuing to push for equity and justice for all. Again, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act makes lynching a hate crime in the US. Committing an act of this kind can result in the prosecution of someone for a conspiracy to commit a hate crime that ends with serious injury or death.