'Against anything I had ever been told was possible, I was turning white. On the surface of my skin, a miracle was quietly brewing . . .'
Suburban Australia. Sweltering heat. Three bedroom blonde-brick. Family of five. Beat-up Ford Falcon. Vegemite on toast. Maxine Beneba Clarke's life is just like all the other Aussie kids on her street.
Except for this one, glaring, inescapably obvious thing.
“I learned to stay quiet. I learned that nobody much cared. I learned that it was probably my fault anyway, and that what they were doing to me was perfectly okay. This is how it alters us. This is how we change.”
Maxine Beneba Clarke, in The Hate Race
Having also grown up in suburban, middle-class Australia during the 1980’s and 90’s, Clarke’s memoir brought with it a flood of memories – bubble writing, hypercolour t-shirts, BMX bikes, Baby Sitters Club books, Saturday morning Video Hits. These memories for me, however, do not come weighted down by fear and hatred and shame; they are not associated with name calling and taunts, bullying and isolation, stone throwing, spit balls, hiding in the toilets at school.
Clarke’s memoir is a must-read – a powerful and, yes uncomfortable, story of how casual, overt and institutionalised racism caused longstanding effects on one young Australian.