Posted on June 2, 2024

White Journalist Who ‘Disguised’ Himself as Black Faces Backlash

Mandy Taheri, Newsweek, May 29, 2024

Canadian-American journalist Sam Forster said he “disguised himself as a Black man” to write a book that claims to “document how racism persists in American society.” His comments and the book’s premise have drawn sharp criticism on social media.

On Tuesday, Forster posted on X, formerly Twitter, that writing Seven Shoulders: Taxonomizing Racism in Modern America “was one of the hardest things I’ve done as a journalist.”

The book’s description on Amazon calls it “the most important book on American race relations that ever been written.” That comment, in addition to Forster’s X post, have led to criticism for making money off of Black people’s experiences and using controversial methods to explore racism rather than interviewing people.


It is unclear exactly how Forster “disguised himself,” with many users on X speculating that he used Black face. On X, New York Times politics reporter Astead Herndon urged Forster to, “drop the pic, Samuel. I’m trying to see something,” inquiring to see how Forster looked.

Several users have flagged that this is not an original idea, as white author John Howard Griffin famously darkened his skin to publish Black Like Me in 1961 in the Jim Crow South. Griffin also received backlash for his approach.

B.A. Parker, a writer and audio producer who is the co-host of NPR’s Code Switch, posted a video of Boy Meets World on X in response to Forster’s post. The segment shows teacher Mr. Feeny speaking about Griffin’s book Black Like Me with a character Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) asking “wouldn’t it have been easier to just…ask?”