A Black man slowly changes into the navy-blue attire of an officer of the Compagnies républicaines de sécurité (CRS), as footage of police brutality flashes up on the giant screen behind him. Turning gravely to the audience, he explains that he became a police officer so that he could “look like a man.” As he begins to recount his experience of racism, we hear a French-accented rendition of the spiritual “soon ah will be done with all the troubles of the world.” A Black woman appears stage right. Still singing, she tenderly wraps her arms around the melancholy figure of the uniformed Black man and gently escorts him off stage.

I begin with the appearance of a Black American woman on the stage of French racism in order to ask a series of questions concerning the translation and performance of race across...

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