An Indonesian Chinese Ally
Hello, so this is going to be a bit of a long rant, so please bear with me.
I’m Indonesian-Chinese. I live at the northern part of my country where it’s relatively close to Singapore, so I visit a lot.
of all, I need to say a thing or two about racial/ethnic relations in
Indonesia, since it’s a little complicated when compared to Singapore,
where the Chinese obviously have the upper hand in most, if not all,
aspects. Basically, the Chinese here have
economic privilege, it’s pretty obvious. Meanwhile, native Indonesians
(**side note: Indonesia is pretty diverse and even among its natives
there is still discrimination, like how the people from the Nusa
Tenggara and Papua islands are the butt of many jokes because of they’re
supposed “backwardness” and black skin smh) have political privilege.
divide between these roles that the races are supposed to stick to is
real to the point where when I chose my major in uni, which is
International Politics, people were legitimately surprised because I’m
Chinese, and Chinese people aren’t supposed to be interested in
So anyway, here in Indonesia, the community as a whole is still traumatized from the ethnic genocide of the 1960s and the 1990s where they hunt down people of Chinese descent and killed them. As a result of that fear, the Indonesian-Chinese community separated themselves even more, and one of the ways of coping with that fear was by teaching children and grandchildren that we are the “better” race, and it develops a warped view in Chinese children, so I guess in that aspect Chinese-Indonesians aren’t much better than Chinese-Singaporeans.
Knowing all this, you wouldn’t be surprised if my generation of Chinese-Indonesians would prefer to only be friends with other Chinese people, no matter where they come from. Usually this is the case, as many of us feel a sense of familiarity with the Chinese living in Malaysia and Singapore, and would side with fellow Chinese no matter what in a really misguided, stubborn way. It annoys me to no ends, especially every time my friends talked about how much better Singapore is compared to Indonesia in terms of racial relations (obviously because the Chinese there are free to do whatever they want to everyone else).
since I became more aware of how the real world works (and not what my
elderly Chinese relatives taught me), every time I visit Singapore I get
a weird vibe off of the Chinese-Singaporeans that I couldn’t put my
finger on. It wasn’t until I found this blog (which is wonderful btw
kudos) that I realized what it was.
Not only are the Singaporean-Chinese racist towards other the minorities in Singapore, they also adopt the same hoity-toity, snobbish, holier-than-thou attitude towards foreigners, even if they’re, well, Chinese. I’ve eavesdropped on people’s conversations many times, and they’re usually middle-aged Chinese uncles making fun of me and the country I’m from, saying really insulting things in Mandarin or Hokkien because they assume I couldn’t understand what they were saying as Chinese-Indonesians are generally more assimilated into Indonesian culture. Everywhere I go, it’s like once they find out I’m not Singaporean, they would suddenly turn unfriendly and arrogant.
It’s a treatment that I don’t get from the minorities in Singapore, only the Chinese. In my own experience, I found the Malays and Indians are generally friendlier to me, from strangers I ask for directions on the street, to servers, to taxi drivers. Every time I get on a taxi, the Chinese drivers would ask where I’m from, and proceed to say demeaning things about my country and how far they are behind compared to Singapore, much like the submissions I’ve read on this blog where these racist drivers would make unsolicited comments about other races being lazy. I mean, I’m not one for nationalism-bordering-fascism myself, but COME ON, THAT IS SO UNCALLED FOR?? Meanwhile, the Malay minority drivers would be SO NICE and we would chat in Bahasa and it would be a wonderful and joyous taxi ride, I would feel like “Wow! Everyone is not so different after all! National borders, schmational schmorders”. I would get off the taxi saying “Terima kasih!” and the Malay drivers would respond in a really nice manner, wish me a fun trip and tell me to be careful, WHILE I CAN’T EVEN GET A SINGLE NOD FROM THE CHINESE DRIVERS WHEN I SAY “THANK YOU”.
Reading this blog, I realized something else about the Chinese-Singaporeans. Sometimes when we visit Singapore, my mom would go to one of the yoga studios and I would sit and wait while she does her thing. While I wait, I would see a lot of young and middle aged Chinese women, talking about how yoga has changed their lives and how great it is, all the while apparently they are holding their noses when they get in an elevator with an actual Indian?? The nerve they must have to pull off that kind of move OMG. I would also see the studio’s staffs explaining to new potential members the origins of yoga, the benefits of yoga, and why they should join the studio, and these staffs would usually be Chinese, while actual Indian staffs are relegated to cleaning up and/or being behind the desk. I find that very ironic and, sadly after reading this blog, unsurprising: a Chinese person acting as some sort of authority on a product of Indian culture while actual Indians don’t get to have a word in.
Anyway, I think I’ve experienced some
more xenophobia/witnessed more racism, but I can’t really think of one
at the moment, and I have to go. So all in all, this blog enabled me to
connect the dots on why I feel so strangely about Chinese-Singaporeans.
To some extent, I can relate to the confessions on this blog, because
some of it I’ve experienced myself in my own country. Of course, this
doesn’t mean I don’t have at least some privilege when I visit
Singapore. If I don’t open my mouth, I can pass as a Singaporean-Chinese
after all, and I probably get treated a lot better by the Chinese than
Singaporean minorities; a privilege I wouldn’t choose to have because I
know what it’s like to be on the other side.
So to everyone reading this blog, know that you have an ally in your neighboring country. Please stay strong and stay united against bullshit, know that you deserve love and respect as much as the Chinese do.
Sending lots of hugs and kisses xoxo
Submitted by Cynthia Ongga
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