Last edit: July 2011
Was compelled to write about ethnicity topic by septian’s post, but in all actuality, this particular issue have aggravated the back of my mind for quite a while now. As i try to navigate these juxtaposed memories and thoughts, maybe-just maybe, i hope for a place for the common indonesian chinese.
Instead of writing just a post about my race and ethnicity, I feel that devoting a whole page to it would represent my case better. So here we are, a short ethno-biography of me, that I try to be as transparent as I could, so here goes:
Although I was born abroad, I’ve spent my life in Indonesia as long as I could remember. numpang lahir aja, is what my friends said about my birthplace.
After residing shortly in Jakarta, our family moved a lot, especially in the island of Sumatra. Living briefly in Aceh and Medan, we stayed in Bandar Lampung for a longer while. During my kindergarten years there, I remember vividly that as a child playing in the neighborhood, I would greet Assalamualaikum! to the people.
In childhood, my parents did not once put any racial identity in me. I didn’t really follow any Chinese tradition (not once i refer my sister as ‘cici’, preferring ‘kakak’), and also I am completely oblivious, by then, to the 300 distinct ethnic groups that are sprawling across our archipelago, regrettably. From the television i can perfectly see that the other part of the world have their blacks and bules, but along the neighborhood I did not really distinguish between orang Jawa, orang Sunda, orang Bali, dan orang Cina. I simply couldn’t, to do what I was never educated to. We all were simply Indonesians.
When we moved to Jakarta, I attended a Protestant private school for my primary education. Having students mostly from both Chinese and Batak descend, made me couldn’t see the difference all the more. There, the Bataks and Jawas were quite fair, the Chinese were quite tanned, and almost no one could speak Chinese. We were homogeneous. Or was I simply ignorant? But if ignorance was truly bliss, that bliss would be over soon.
After the terrible May 98 riots, slowly I became more aware of the issue surrounding ethnicity. Our school and neighborhood weren’t heavily affected, Thank God. But some terms became more common in the medias, such as warga keturunan. I wondered, who were being targeted actually? keturunan Indo-belanda? keturunan apaan?
It dawned on me that I am actually Chinese! Of course our family watched Chinese movie flicks, tapi siapa sih yang gak tau tendangan tanpa bayangan ato Kera Sakti? But it simply didn’t occur to me, partly because of my ethnic-less upbringing and homogeneous society I had back then. This was the point my curiosity to the Chinese ethnicity, history, and culture grows.
Years gone by fascinated by my ancestral origin. The more I found out, the more I wanted to know. These are the times I was engrossed in Chinese and Eastern readings, philosophies, and martial arts. In the other hand, the more I know, there are also things I feel that is unfriendly and unfamiliar. The Chinese language, ideology, longing of homeland are those that I did not appeal to me. And therefore my racial identity was built late in my teens.
High school times in Kolese Kanisius have their own toll on my ethnic stand. Meeting people who can joke around with racist remarks yet did not hurt each other is really a refreshing memory.
I meet more and more new faces, then I notice that some Chinese Indonesians would identify themselves more as Indonesians, and some other more as Chinese.
pertiwiku zamrud khatulistiwa hijau, kulitku liong sungai kuning.
Kubangga akan tanahku, kubangga akan darahku.
Toh, bangsaku adalah tanah tumpah darahku.