SARA– acronym from Indonesian words of Suku, Agama, Ras, dan Antar Golongan (Tribe, Religion, Race, and Inter-group)
We are blessed by living in Indonesia where culture is not just a black and white, we are as it was written under the claws of Garuda “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”; vary but one. In the smaller scope, we are staring at the obvious, life at the hill of Ciumbuleuit are something to be proud of. Where else in Bandung you can see all vary of skin color, facial features, and body build in just one stop? Here.
Me, myself are a cocktail race, a mixture between Sundanese, Betawi, Madura, Cirebon and other race I could remember, the idea of “pure-blood” is rather exclusive for me who lives in multicultural environment for 20 years. In my head, those pure bloods are type of persons whom uphold their values and norms in bond with their culture and religion. On that breezy night, I had a sit and sip coffee while enjoying the night goes with two of my UNPAR friends, whom come from different background, Sharleen, a Chinese-Christian and Jo a Batak-Christian to talk about my favorite subject of all time, “culture”.
“I mean you can’t pick right? You are born with certain race and its God will!” Sharleen emphasized that people should neither be proud or ashamed of their race. “But if you are asking about pride, I would say that I’m proud to be a Christian rather than a Chinese. Its something that I choose and I’ve been living with its virtue for God knows how long.” I assumed she’s proud of herself because her Christianity, a loving and caring religion she said.
What hits the most towards the “pure-blood” are stereotypes, either from majority or even from other minor ethnic groups. Among the other, Pribumi vs Chinese is the most common case. Jo, as a pribumi frequently offended by her all Chinese friends by calling all of her kinds brainless and street rats. Although she understood that different people has different character but these way of thinking had bring her also on stereotyping the Chinese. “We are seen as worthless human, mostly from the high elite Chinese family. We even be equated to a salted fish (type of dried fish commonly has low price, identical with low class food) compare to them,” Jo explained. It was one of the most hurtful words I’ve ever listened and Sharleen seems to agree. For Sharleen, stereotypes has not gotten far more than labeling as geek or stingy, “Well I’m actually okay with that because it doesn’t actually hurt my feeling. I mean, basically different people may have different reaction towards labeling, in my case most of groups that shunned me came from less educated group regardless their race so, as logical person why should I be bothered by people like that?”
True that. When we talk about culture, it shouldn’t be as narrow as what we are discussing right now. It takes all aspect from environment, experience, norms and value, upbringing and so on and so forth. Then again it’s the character that determine the action and respond towards certain situation. We all are humans.
I remember talking with my colleague at the unit; she came from Maumere, East Nusa Tenggara. Loud, bubbly, energetic, and shrill voice is her character. Born and raised in Maumere has affect Cantika’s way of communicating. Some people judge her as being grumpy and fervent, when she moved to Bandung for the first time so that people are afraid of her. “She came from the East! She must be harsh! Be careful! That is very common, I just laugh it out. Maybe they have few friends from the East and never done their research about people from the East. Even Batak are labled as harsh and loud, see the inconsistency? We’re humans too and we’re Indonesian!” Cantika laugh it out, “they even can’t differentiate people from East Nusa and from Papua! Olalla, do your research fellas!” I understand Cantika’s disquiets towards objectivizing her into collective identity. Yes she came from the East but she’s not Papua, she’s Floresian. Pity, Cantika also explain in some stereotypes are given just like a mask that she should wear. It becomes an offensive mechanism toward stereotypes that makes never ending labeling. “At some point, I have no option but to actually become the label that they given to me, or else they won’t understand where is the limit,” but wasn’t it will make justification of the label? Well, minority rarely satisfied.
Cantika told me that people from Java rarely wander; they are living there live in the island of easy access and not wanting to move other than abroad. It’s very different from the outsiders from other islands; their parents insist them to pursue better education outside their hometown. What I don’t understand is when she explained about how her mother emphasized to just be “ordinary” when she’s home. “You should be critical out there, but you were born here be like one,” as her mother said. I mean, what’s the point of going beyond comfort zone if when you don’t give back and bring change to your land of origins. Feeding them with character is meant so they don’t loose their identity and sense of hometown when they leave but return to not having extreme unaccepted manner. That’s why bond between minority races are high but that’s another story.
Back again at Jo’s bad experience. She burst into tears in somehow wishing to be born as different race, somewhat overreacting. I mean she could just simply change her friends, but it’s her respond that is build through ups and downs of her experience. What I admire from Jo is her willpower to change her friends’ perspective by being a good example of Pribumi. “I feel like I’m in a very risky position. Once said action speaks louder than words, what I have to do is simply prove them through my action refuted their stereotypes.”
As the night gets late the so-called 2AM thoughts strike, “Then how influential your race and or religion craft you?” I uttered. Sharleen and Jo both agree that Christianity had become their fences and filter for their action towards stereotypes. “I am not exclusively saying my religion is the only one that teaches the kindness and goodness in living, all religion is teaching peace. They should! Stereotype has no religion violent has no religion. It’s the people.” Understanding people’s attitude towards another group is easy when we simplify and generalize them, but in result we get shallow understanding that leads us to stereotyping certain groups though what we think represent their culture.
Then again, it’s a complex discourse since we need to trace back all the fact that determines one’s action. We are born from certain race and culture, some people have privileged of choosing their religion but those things are not a limit of an identity. One thing that should be understood is that we all are human. We are what culture, religion, upbringing, and experience has made us. Therefore there shouldn’t by anyhow one’s above another; we should be synchronizing in harmony.
Featured Image: Olympus om-1 // Fuji Industrial 100 – Day Pinasthika
This article is originally published for yearly report magazine of executive student board of Parahyangan Catholic University Bandung. The english version is available at Persatuan Mahasiswa Unpar website. Indonesian edition is only available on PRINT, distributed during the period of May-June 2017 on campus. For any interest of having the printed edition, contact Highlight Magz instagram. All pictures right reserved.