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It’s never too late for justice for Emmett Till

We should not minimize the healing and symbolic power of justice — even justice that is long delayed.

This undated photo shows Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old black Chicago boy, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1955 after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi.
AP Photo

I write in response to Neil Steinberg’s recent opinion column, “It doesn’t matter if Till whistled.” While I agree with Steinberg’s premise that whether or not Emmett Till whistled is beside the point, I find other parts of his piece deeply troubling and alarming.

Steinberg extols the Justice Department’s decision to drop its investigation into Till’s case and is callously dismissive of Till’s family for wanting an apology. “Why would that matter?” Steinberg asks.

The Till family has endured immense pain and trauma since the horrific act of racial terror inflicted on their 14-year-old relative in 1955. Their response to that trauma is valid. The Justice Department closing Emmett’s case means that nobody will answer for his lynching. To tell the victimized family how they should feel about that, what they should demand and what would make them whole again is not only arrogant — it is also reprehensible.

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Even more disturbing is when Steinberg writes, that “the only way to make the Till case worse now would be to drape over it the canard of justice being finally done. It’s far too late. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

This is simply wrong. Justice served — however late — is always better than no justice at all. We cannot allow Dr. King’s words to be taken out of context and robbed of their moral clarion call to eliminate evil, no matter how long it takes. We should not minimize the healing and symbolic power of justice — even justice that is long delayed. This case is about more than Emmett Till. It is a symbol of the countless unknown Black lynching victims who were also denied their justice.

Steinberg owes the Till family an apology for his insensitivity and arrogance.

And in the spirit of never relinquishing the struggle for justice and never losing hope in the power of national reckoning, we must get the Emmett Till Antilynching Act signed into law this year to make lynching a federal hate crime in Emmett’s name.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.

The big picture on prejudice

It’s time to let go of the Jussie Smollett story and focus on authentic hate crimes, your recent editorial states in the wake of the trial verdict. You observe that hate crimes are seemingly under-reported. Check and check on the first two points.

But this whole affair raises the question: How many such false positives are there among the uncleared cases? Until evidence proves otherwise, I’d say these counterbalance the overlooked instances. It goes both ways.

Is prejudice as serious a social problem as it was in the early post-World War II days? As a Baby Boomer, I’m perhaps predisposed to think not. In my formative years, I witnessed the end of segregated schools, beaches, water fountains, hotels, restaurants and country clubs. I saw assorted ’60s civil rights legislation enacted. And today I look at our own duly elected gay/Black/female big-city mayor and think if all that doesn’t bespeak progress, nothing would.

Just once, can’t we pause and congratulate ourselves at the headway made in this area, before addressing anew the far less prevalent imperfections?

Tom Gregg, Niles