UC Irvine Journal of International, Transnational, and Comparative Law


This article applies discursive analysis of the UN Human Rights Council debate after the killing of George Floyd in June 2020. It assesses state members’ speeches delivered during the UN session convened in June 2020, as well as the ensuing landmark report by the UN Human Commissioner for Human Rights on police violence and racism released one year later, in June 2021. Through its analysis of the current global debate on police violence against black people at the United Nations, it shows how racialized violence is and is not considered in international law. The underlying task is to unmask whiteness-coping mechanisms used in international law when issues of racism arise, as well as to light fire on the disruptive nature of black movements’ engagement with the UN to dismantle racism in a structural manner. This article is particularly interested in international law as legal imaginations shared, colliding, and contested in multiple fora, among them the United Nations. Using this case study of the debate on racism and police violence at the United Nations in 2020, the article examines how different views of racism and international human rights law come into play on the global stage of the United Nations. It thereby highlights what those differing views reveal about international law in relation to racism.