Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Maxine Beneba Clarke, The Hate Race (2016)

The Australian-born writer of Afro-Caribbean descent Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The Hate Race (2016) is a work of creative non-fiction based on her childhood and teenage experiences growing up as a girl of African appearance in an outer suburb of Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s.  Informed by post-colonialism and critical race theory, the text serves as an indictment of white Australia for being racist from its colonial inception and continuing to be racist after the abolition of the white Australia policy in 1973 and while Australia was officially presented as a multicultural nation.  The text implies that the problem of racism continues to the present. 

The ‘Hate Race’ in the title is the white race, which is characterised in a series of sometimes harrowing anecdotes as a race overly represented by haters, bullies, and judgemental and patronising people.  Not only are there ugly overt acts of racism presented but also hurtful examples of inadvertent or unconscious racism, even by people who would not regard themselves as racist.  This text seems intended to connect meaningfully with non-whites who may have shared similar unfortunate experiences to the author, while also confronting white readers with unpalatable truths that warrant conscious efforts to change. 

While sharing confronting anecdotes of racist abuse and bullying, the text also tells the story of how an individual became politically aware, or ‘woke’, to see the world through the perspective of political correctness, post-colonialism and critical race theory and to appreciate the value of anti-racist political activism. 

In the spirit of post-colonialism, the text also represents the author’s challenge to dominant Eurocentric accounts of Australian social history by taking the opportunity to tell her story her way.  This text reflects the distinct perspective of an Afro-Caribbean girl and reflects what is claimed to be the distinctive style of Afro-Caribbean storytelling that subordinates all the chosen elements to the intended emotional impact and purpose of the story.   

By recounting the psychological impact of racism on the story teller, the text serves to show how racism adversely impacts on all its victims, changing them in unfortunate ways. In this case, the young main protagonist felt ashamed of her appearance and engaged in self-harm. However, on a more positive note, the text also shows how the impact of racism inspired the main protagonist to succeed academically to prove her worth.  As the main protagonist’s father understood, if you are racially different in a white society you have to be ten times better than others to win acceptance. 

The text is also overt in its celebration of progressive politics, using the issue of race to determine the allocation of praise or condemnation.  In this regard, the text praises left-wing political activists and politicians like Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela, while condemning politicians like Enoch Powell.  Similarly, in regards to the Australian scene, the text praises left-wing politicians like Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, while condemning politicians like John Howard and Pauline Hanson. 

In tune with the theory of post-colonialism, the text puts race and racism at the centre of history, especially regarding the encounters of white Europeans with people from other races, such as black Africans, paying particular attention to the condemnation of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the colonies in the new world as illustrative of this shameful history. 

In addition, the text also empathetically takes up historical revisionist themes derived from Aboriginal political activism that present Australia as morally tainted from its colonial inception, as being the product of invasion, frontier wars, massacres and genocide regarding the Aboriginal people.  Mainstream accounts of Australian history encountered in, for example, classrooms and school text books are presented as characterised by silences and omissions regarding Aboriginal voices that render them misleading.  Meanwhile Australia Day is presented as representing the beginning of the unwelcome displacement of the Aboriginal people from their ancestral lands and as therefore undeserving of celebration.  

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2022 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: The Hate Race meaning, The Hate Race themes, The Hate Race analysis, The Hate Race notes