Do I Contribute To Racism?

Growing up as a Chinese Indonesian, I have always been afraid of the persecution coming from the non-Chinese Indonesian community. It all came from the popular narrative that Chinese-Indonesians are a minority and that they constantly ‘steal’ Indonesian indigenous’ share of resources. Thus, I have a constant fear that I might be assaulted or alienated from society. The situation is of course influenced by my environment. My family always acts carefully to avoid problems. Going into an argument is unfavourable since it might fuel up hatred towards Chinese-Indonesian. My friends would only talk about politics with their close circle and carefully not posting anything controversial.

The world looks unfair because I can’t even point out my mistakes except being a Chinese-Indonesian. I remember how some kids called me ‘cina’, how they gave me a middle finger, how some lady in the restroom looked at me from head to toe like I have some kind of a disease. My parents told the story of how they even have to change their name and people in the bank still don’t get their names right until this day. Finding a racist comment in Instagram is not hard, there are a lot of pages that happily stated they are ready to kill us. I despise the racist commentaries about Chinese-Indonesians but feel powerless at the same time.

When George Floyd became the victim of the structural racism in the US, more and more people called upon others to participate politically saying that we cannot sit out. At first, I didn’t understand why I should do that. Getting political in public means exposing myself, I might get into trouble at my workplace or become the subject of racism in social media. Even when I have a strong opinion about something, I suppress it from the public eye as if I have a double life. My first instinct is to defend myself by not worsening the status quo. Becoming ignorant is the best tool I have. But then it came across my mind. Maybe I am complicit in the lack of progress and letting many oppressions keep going on. Isn’t it the same as justifying their hatred by not calling them out?

What I and most people don’t understand is that the level of suffering experienced by others should not be the parameter help them out. Sometimes, it is easier for all of us to say that I should take care of my own problems first before helping others. It’s more heart-wrenching to imagine their sufferings since we also face the same thing. Thus, deep inside we justify our action to stay silent. Which is entirely wrong.

As we are all tired of the current structural racism in Indonesia be it against Chinese-Indonesians and/or Papuans, we have to do something. Racism will not end when we let racists think they can do anything they want. So, we have to speak up against them. Be more aware of the situation, and slowly engage in discussion.

What if instead of staying silent, I called out those racist kids and said that their joke was wrong? It might not change their opinion, but they would remember that there is someone who will fight them back. And maybe they would hesitate the next time they tried to do the same thing.

As a minority, of course there will be trade-offs like critics or hate speech against us. You have every right to feel sorry about yourself. But, instead of stopping there, use that feeling to empathise and help. Black Lives Matter is finally getting momentum, and since we actually know how it feels, we have to do something. Because if we stay silent, it is the same as letting racism continue and we become the same as those racists and others who stay silent – complicit.

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