Cyberspace is a wonderful thing.
By guaranteeing anonymity it allows writers to express themselves freely without fear of having the proverbial front door kicked in by the powers that be.
And by concealing our ethnicity, skin colour, religion (if we have one!), class and age, we become truly equal. The only thing that matters is what we write. Just that. Fantastic, huh?
But in the real world things aren’t so fair. Because the disease of racial discrimination is still very much with us, blighting the lives of so many people across the globe.
Here in Indonesia, this terrible disease has also taken a foothold.
You only have to ask the Indonesian Chinese about that.
Now I’m not saying all Indonesians are racist, but what I am saying is that some Indonesians do hold racist views, mostly I believe as a result of indoctrination by a state apparatus that unashamedly condones racism.
There is even a word in the Indonesian language that shows how deeply racism is engrained in the Indonesian psyche. And that word is pribumi. Its meaning? To describe someone who is “indigenously” or “pure” Indonesian. Like under South Africa’s abhorrent apartheid doctrine though, this notion throws up many absurdities. Is, for example, an Indonesian who has mixed parentage – ie with only one pribumi parent - pribumi or not?
On message boards discussing hot Indonesian babes, for example, some Indonesian posters do not consider a model from this country who is not pribumi to even be Indonesian. To see for yourself check out the comments on this forum here.
Moreover, if you happen to have black skin and want to teach English in Indonesia you might want to think again. Many students will complain to the school as they will not consider you to be a “native” English speaker however good your English may be.
Black is not exactly the most sought after skin color in Indonesia: every young girl here longs for a whiter complexion like, ironically, the Chinese!
And these unfortunate dudes have had it tough for many years now.
Even those whose families have lived in the country for centuries, have always been treated as second-class citizens. Ethnic Chinese are still required to pay large sums of money for a citizenship certificate needed to obtain an ID card which is, in turn, essential for everything from job interviews to drivers licenses. The ID card still indicates, indirectly, the racial origins of the bearer. It is just one of a number of discriminatory measures against ethnic Chinese established both under Suharto, and also the first president Sukarno.
Even a “national hero” like former world badminton champion Hendrawan is not really recognized as being truly Indonesian even though he has brought great honor to his country. It was only after the intervention of former President Megawati Soekarnoputri that he managed to obtain his Indonesian citizenship after she ordered the relevant bureaucrats to approve his application.
The irony of the situation is that the racial discrimination in Indonesia today very much mirrors the racist ways of the nation’s former colonial rulers who the Indonesians struggled so hard to defeat.
Wouldn’t it be great if no one cared about skin color? After all, it shouldn’t matter at all, should it?