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Monday, February 18, 2008

Racial Prejudice 1

When reading the previous post at THE JAKARTA POST, I remembered one discussion I had with a good friend of mine, especially on the way the Dutch colonial government divided society into three hierarchical classes: the highest class was the Dutch living in this archipelago; the middle belonged to the indigenous people who had blue blood, as well as un-indigenous people, referring to those who had Arabian and Chinese blood; the lowest class was the commoners, the indigenous people who did not have blue blood. In that era, it was almost impossible for commoners to be rich, so it means the lowest class meant to poorest class as well.

Unfortunately, my good friend never heard such a ‘policy’ issued by the Dutch colonial government. (FYI, he is a Chinese Indonesian.) What he learned and remembered was the Chinese have been treated discriminatively since the colonial era until recently. And since I could not refer any published book or article to base my argument, we did not end the discussion satisfactorily. Therefore, when finding such short information in the previous article published at THE JAKARTA POST, I was glad. I can prove to him that I was not just talking bullshit thing to him. I really don’t remember where I read or heard such a thing before. Perhaps I heard it from my history teacher at school.

When I was a kid, I almost never had any experience to deal with Chinese in my neighborhood. And as I have written before in one post of mine, when I was a kid (read  when I was in the elementary school), all of my schoolmates and most neighbors were Muslim. I found a difficulty to start making friend with non-Muslim when I entered junior high school. Therefore, it was more to different religion rather than different ethnic groups. My parents never taught their kids not to deal with people from different ethnic groups (this would be very impossible to do of course since our family don’t have Javanese blood. We are a family having Gorontalo—one ethnic group originating from North Sulawesi—blood living in the middle of Javanese.). They just taught us not to deal closely with non-Muslim. One main reason behind this: they were worried if their children fell in love with non-Muslim boy/girl because that meant let one of us go to hell. LOL.

Therefore, I found it weird when some friends living in the same boarding house with me when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree (1986-1990) didn’t like Chinese at all. I never had any idea why the hell was that except that they got the hostility toward this ethnic group from their parents. I could not avoid thinking that perhaps it was also based on racial jealousy: many Chinese people were successful in their lives while many Javanese people (the commoners, not the nobles) had to live from scratch. They did not want to see the most probable reason behind that: the Chinese worked hard (their parents or grandparents migrating from China passed down the hardworking character to them; China was a place where people had to work hard to survive, be it the weather as well as the social life) while the Javanese did not work as hard as their Chinese contemporaries since they were taught since born that their land was fertile so that they did not need to work hard to survive and they were luckier to have friendlier weather compared to that of China.

Several months ago, especially when Semarang had its ambitious program—Semarang Pesona Asia—I had discussion with some students of mine where one of them had Arabian blood. I found out how this male student of mine had a big hostility toward the Chinese because his parents taught him so. If this is related to what happened to the way the Dutch colonial government divided the society, in the past the Arabian blood people were in the same level with the Chinese ones. This even perhaps strengthened the hostility between them (maybe especially from the Arabian toward the Chinese). After the colonial era ended, the indigenous showed their sharp teeth that they even deserved to have a higher social status in their own land than the non-indigenous. The Arabian were welcome more warmly than the Chinese because of the same religion: Islam. Most of the Chinese did not adhere Islam. Therefore, the Arabian, together with the indigenous people, cornered the Chinese hand in hand. The regimes of Soekarno and Soeharto prolonged and worsened the discriminative treatment toward the Chinese.

From what I wrote above, I can draw a conclusion that it will take a long time to let go of the discrimination toward the Chinese because of the long history. However, we are not to be pessimistic. I personally adore what Elizabeth Widjaja has done (see my previous post) toward her surrounding to decrease the racial gap inherited by the previous regimes. Besides, the cooperation of other ethnic groups is strongly needed to support the future warm and friendly relation among all ethnic groups in Indonesia.

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johnorford said...

i have heard that the dutch did that.

but i also think it's a cop out to blame them for the racism that's in the hearts of ppl today.

A Feminist Blog said...

Well, we need to do a very thorough research for that John.