Where Race Does Not Matter: The Spirit of Modernity


211 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-14-301769-1
DDC 305.8'009




Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


In Where Race Does Not Matter, Cecil Foster attempts to show “all that
[Canadian society has] overcome and can still hope to achieve” by
moving from a society that championed white supremacy to one that
actively promotes diversity and multiculturalism. The title is a
reference to African-American scholar Cornel West’s Race Matters,
which says that even members of the academic elite are affected by
racism. Foster’s revision of the title indicates his effort to look
into a possible future, when “a new spirit of modernity reigns” and
racism no longer limits human potential.

The book begins promisingly as Foster incisively traces the strong
connections between Canada and South Africa—connections fostered by
the Laurier government and subsequent administrations. When white South
Africans “sought to ensure, wherever humanly possible, that South
Africa [became] a white man’s jewel in the crown of the British
Empire,” they looked to Canada as a model. Like South Africa, Canada
attempted to assimilate a large non–English-speaking European
population while firmly dominating a non-white, non-European Aboriginal
one. The break in the alliance came when Diefenbaker denounced South
African apartheid. Later, Canada’s official policy of multi-
culturalism, coupled with Brian Mulroney’s decision to press for
sanctions against South Africa, set Canada on the road to a world where
race could potentially become obsolete.

In spite of the book’s strong beginning, Foster ignores indications
that multicultural societies are not always harmonious ones.
Occasionally, his argument gets sidetracked: Chapter 2 starts with an
account of the Haitian Revolution that, placed where it is, does not
clearly connect to the material before it. Where Race Does Not Matter
lacks the clarity of Foster’s earlier A Place Called Heaven.


Foster, Cecil., “Where Race Does Not Matter: The Spirit of Modernity,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17068.