Backlash after white Canadian writer self-publishes novel on traveling to the US ‘disguised as black man’

Swift Backlash for Canadian Writer Who Traveled the US in Blackface

A white Canadian writer recently faced swift backlash after it was revealed that he had traveled throughout the United States in blackface. The writer, who boldly claimed that his book is “the most important book on American race relations that has ever been written,” has been met with widespread criticism.

The writer’s decision to don blackface during his travels has sparked outrage and condemnation from various communities. Many argue that his actions perpetuate harmful stereotypes and mock the experiences of black Americans. The use of blackface has a long history of dehumanizing and degrading black people, making it a highly offensive and insensitive practice.

In addition to the controversy surrounding his choice of attire, the writer’s claims about the significance of his book have also been met with skepticism. Critics argue that it is highly inappropriate for a white writer to make such grandiose statements about a topic that predominantly affects people of color. They argue that the voices and perspectives of black authors and scholars should be prioritized in discussions about race relations.

The backlash against the writer serves as a reminder of the importance of sensitivity and understanding when engaging in discussions about race. It highlights the need for individuals, especially those in positions of privilege, to educate themselves about the historical and cultural context of the issues they are addressing. Without this knowledge, well-intentioned efforts can easily veer into offensive and harmful territory.

Moving forward, it is crucial for society to continue challenging and confronting instances of racism and cultural appropriation. By fostering open dialogue, recognizing the harm caused by such actions, and amplifying marginalized voices, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

Journalist Sam Forster, who has written for The National Post and The Spectator, recently shared a captivating account of his experiences last summer. In an intriguing post on X, Forster revealed his decision to disguise himself as a Black man and embark on a journey across the United States. His intention was to document and shed light on the persistent issue of racism within American society.

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He also provided a link to his self-published book, titled “Seven Shoulders”. According to the blurb on Amazon, the book is described as “the most significant piece of literature on American race relations ever written.”

The author, in a copy of the book sent to The Independent, recounts an incident in September 2023 where they wore a blackface disguise. The disguise consisted of a synthetic Afro wig, colored contact lenses, and a significant amount of Maybelline foundation in the “Mocha” shade.

In “Seven Shoulders,” the author shares his personal accounts of hitchhiking through major cities including Nashville, Birmingham, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Detroit. Throughout the book, he vividly describes the instances where drivers overlook him while he is in disguise, and provides insightful commentary on the historical context of race and politics in the United States.

The project garnered a range of responses from prominent Black writers and journalists, who expressed a combination of criticism and bemusement.

Legal correspondent Elie Mystal, from The Nation, criticized the book’s techniques and drew a comparison to the movie “Tropic Thunder.” In the film, Robert Downey Jr. portrays a white Australian actor who uses blackface to depict a Black Vietnam War soldier, all in the pursuit of winning an Oscar.

“Instead of resorting to whatever this is from Tropic Thunder, the better option would be to engage in meaningful conversations with actual Black people,” suggested Mr. Mystal on X.

The book includes interviews with prominent Black leaders, such as a current US congressman and the mayor of a major American city. However, their names are withheld in the book, and Mr. Forster admits that he did not inform them about the inclusion of the blackface aspect in the project.

Nikole Hannah Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who brought us the groundbreaking 1619 Project, seemed puzzled when she heard about the book. The 1619 Project seeks to redefine American history, starting with the arrival of the first enslaved African people in what would become the United States. Her response was brief, but it was clear that she had some reservations.

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She responded with a simple “No comment” when asked about X.

New York Times political reporter Astead Herndon playfully urged Mr. Forster to share a picture of himself in disguise, saying, “Drop the pic, Samuel. I’m curious to see what you’ve got.”

The book bears a striking resemblance to John Howard Griffin’s 1961 book, “Black Like Me.” In Griffin’s work, he adopts blackface to vividly depict the racism prevalent in the Jim Crow South.

In an email to The Independent, Mr. Forster expressed his desire to continue the legacy of Griffin by striving to enhance our overall comprehension of race.

“I didn’t succumb to the pressure of pleasing sensitivity readers, consultants, and Midtown executives like many authors do,” he explained. “I merely portrayed what I observed.”

“I understand that my independence may unsettle some individuals, but I firmly believe that it has resulted in the creation of a highly significant and groundbreaking book,” he remarked.

He insisted that individuals should read the book prior to passing judgment on it and refused to disclose a photograph of the disguise he employed while crafting it.

“In the book, I emphasize that the purpose of this project is to encourage meaningful and constructive conversations,” he explained. “If individuals are seeking entertainment or frivolity, they should seek it elsewhere.”

According to him, individuals on social media who are eager to view the image reveal the “crude and corrupting urges of the general public.” He further asserts that this phenomenon says more about the masses than it does about him.

The title of the book, “Seven Shoulders,” is a reference to the highway shoulders where the Canadian journalist hitchhiked. He embarked on this journey both with and without his disguise. It is worth noting that the author, Mr. Forster, has also written another book called “Americosis: A Nation’s Dysfunction Observed from Public Transit,” which is based on his observations while riding the Dallas public transit system.

In his book, the Canadian writer asserts that his approach provides a distinct viewpoint on race. He highlights that many individuals have only lived their lives within a single socially constructed racial category. However, in his case, he had the opportunity, albeit briefly, to identify as Black and navigate the world as a Black man. This personal experience granted him a unique perspective on race.

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“No one has a better understanding of race than me,” he asserts. “My personal experiences serve as a unique barometer that surpasses anyone else’s.”

In the book, there are other assertions that are bound to ignite passionate discussions and opposition. One such claim made by Mr. Forster is that instances of institutional racism in the present day are “extremely” arduous to pinpoint. This assertion is reiterated by the author for two consecutive pages. However, it is important to note that ongoing racial disparities persist within institutions, including the criminal justice system.

According to the writer, individuals who are most fervent about the topic of race tend to be the least knowledgeable and disconnected from reality. The writer further asserts that a significant portion of literature addressing the history of racism in the United States is actually moralizing in disguise, rather than genuine scholarly work.

He argues that most of the content available today does not fulfill the purpose of documenting the past or present, but instead focuses on what should have been or what is ideal.

In his book “Seven Shoulders,” the author describes his writing as a remarkable literary accomplishment and a significant contribution to the advancement of society.

According to the Canadian journalist, his work should be seen as distinct from the historically racist nature of blackface. He suggests that what he does is a form of “journalistic blackface” that serves a specific purpose.

The highly anticipated book, “Seven Shoulders,” is scheduled for release on Thursday, May 30th, through the author’s own publishing company, Slaughterhouse Media.

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