In the wake of the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, Professor Reginald Oh has published an article in Washington Monthly titled, “Chauvin’s Murder of Floyd Was a Crime Against Humanity.” This piece is a follow-up to Professor Oh’s recent article, “Geography Helped Kill George Floyd.”
After noting Chauvin’s convictions, Professor Oh argues that “[t]he crime that the jury should have been able to consider and deliberate upon, however, is one that they had no jurisdiction to enforce—a crime against humanity, specifically, the crime of apartheid.”
Professor Oh explains that “Understanding Floyd’s murder as a crime against humanity means locating it within a pervasive pattern of police brutality against African Americans nationwide. It means concluding that Chauvin’s actions were not the isolated actions of an individual bad actor, but were consistent with routine and normal police interactions with Blacks. To see Floyd’s murder as a crime against humanity, then, is about seeing it as an act of systemic racism.”
Turning to the specific issue of “apartheid,” Professor Oh explains that this crime is defined in international law as “an inhumane act ‘committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.'” He then explains why the broader context of police violence against minority groups in the United States satisfies this definition.
Ultimately, Professor Oh argues, recognizing Floyd’s murder as a crime against humanity is “about clearly connecting racist policing and the persistence of racial segregation, so that we can transform policing rather than merely seeking individual accountability for individual police officers like Chauvin.”