Oh my gosh – where do I start? With a life that was so similar to my own in terms of pop culture but also so dissimilar in terms of racism?
Maxine’s book The Hate Race is a frank account of some of her experiences with racism growing up in 80s/90s Australia and it’s a confronting read. The fact that these are just a few of the incidents is sickening.
From before kindergarten onwards, she is subject to overt and casual racism from everyone from schoolkids to adults who should know better. Her experiences of being shunned and teased in the school yard mirror my own – except her antagonists went after her purely on the colour of her skin, and mine – well who knows why they targeted me, but they did. School is a very lonely place indeed when everyone hates you.
Fortunately for Maxine, not everyone did – her accounts of the folks who stood by her and still do are heartwarming. She shares the sting of hurt when her friends desert her (literally, on bikes) when they should have stood up for her instead, and the sweet teenage feelings of love when a cute boy from another school becomes her boyfriend.
What really stood out for me was how the racism affected her every thought and move and choice of behaviour as time went on: when the tables turned and she herself was racist to an Indian girl. How sorry she felt and how guilty for heaping that kind of hate on someone when she knew exactly how much it can tear you apart. But as she says “this is how it changes us”. And it does. Abuse always does.
I can’t recommend it enough, particularly if you’re white, middle-class, educated… and still clueless about what that kind of privilege affords you.