The subtitle of this article comes from an interview with Denzel Washington in which he recalls rejecting the lead role in a movie about a man convicted of raping a white woman and facing a death sentence that could not be carried out because the executioners had trouble killing him. The N-phrase can be read as reinscribing a post–civil rights archive of repetition in the police killings of black civilians and the racial policing of black populations in a “white citizenship democracy” as previously suggested by Fredrick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. DuBois. It argues that the racial policing of black populations underlines a democratic-racial social order constituted by and accountable to a white citizenship. Its logic of white sovereignty is increasingly revealed by black protests attached to the signifier BlackLivesMatter, which can be read in part as black life politics.
Barnor Hesse; White Sovereignty (…), Black Life Politics: “The N****r They Couldn't Kill”. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2017; 116 (3): 581–604. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3961494
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