So her family gave a birthday supper for the housemate. It was worse than I could have anticipated. We left as soon as we could decently say goodbye and had a very subdued drive home through the mountains at night, no stars visible.
The hardest thing was that she might as well not have been there. We were greeted and offered drinks and then ignored. They spoke to me a few times, but only to say how much the meal had cost and asked me to guess the price of the gift they gave her. (A bottle of expensive Scotch.) I sat and smiled, nodded and said nothing. Nothing.
They talked to one another, mostly the men — boasting about ‘getting away’ with slightly illegal business scams, about hiring refugees to work on building their holidays homes because refugees will work for a slice of bread a day, about spray-painting a damaged car and selling it as new to a ‘stupid’ young black woman who didn’t know better. Big brother’s son has been working over in the United States and has bonded with a branch of White Aryan Resistance, wants to bring them over to start restoring white pride out here. Numerous comments about how we need another Hitler, the usual derogatory comments about Jewish people, women, jokes about ‘unnatural’ types — they call lesbians ‘mother truckers’, watching me out of the corner of their eyes to see if I might be getting riled.
Two small children were there — the little girl was put down next to a chair and told to play quietly with her Barbie doll, the boy was encouraged to jump around showing how he would shoot anyone who was the wrong skin colour. I don’t know how my housemate survived that family.
So often I forget that racism, like any other deep-seated madness filled with virulent hated and fear, gets worse, intensifies, comes to dominate very aspect of life. There is a germ of greed, violence and rage in there that will spread through generation after generation. These boisterous good-humoured people with their imported cars, speedboats (they do a little abalone poaching on the side), houses built like fortresses with safes full of guns and ammunition, guard dogs, electrified fencing. The underbelly of this country I sometimes forget about, that I pretend doesn’t exist. Those who feel entitled to take power by force, who admire ruthlessness and unabashed greed. All of them ‘decent family men’ and church-goers belonging to all-white churches that are not soft on human rights, no wishy-washy nonsense about equality.
‘Never mind,’ said the housemate this morning. ‘They won’t give me another party for at least a decade and perhaps next time we can send along hired surrogates in denim overalls with shaved heads. They won’t notice we’re not those particular dykes because all mother-truckers look alike to them.’