Being Racist is Humane but Must Be Kept Wisely

The yoga community I’m actively involved in perhaps remains the one and only relatively racism-proof social circle I have in Jakarta.

Everyone can freely say or think racist but the thing is whether you can keep it to yourself (and some close friends and limited social circle around you) or thoughtlessly display it to the rest of the world, both offline and online. And that distinguishes you from the racist folks out there. Knowing the boundaries is absolutely crucial in this case.

Today I found myself stranded in some racist talks. So let me tell you how I was positioned in the conversation. There was this one senior citizen in front of me, and then a girl younger than me and a middle-aged lady that holds higher authority and an older man I look up to and admire. The first mentioned one was the center of attention because he professionally “owns” us at work. The younger girl is somewhat equal to me in the hierarchy. And here’s the highlight, I am Javanese and these four people are Chinese, ethnically andphysically speaking. I am obviously a minority here. I have no power, not to mention wealth or experience that is valued very highly in their microcosm. So I went meek, as meek as a lamb one can find. I said “yes” whenever I deemed necessary followed with nods and a tone of approval and pleasant attentive gestures and body language.

This is exactly the opposite out there. I am Javanese and Javanese rule here in the capital and even in the current administration. Our ‘melancholic’ president is someone born in Pacitan, East Java. The vice president is even more Javanese than his partner. By name, you can effortlessly guess his ethnicity. Ethnically and genetically, both rulers residing in the Merdeka Presidential Palace (Istana Merdeka) are Javanese.  They are Javanese to the very core.

And the conversation went on, quite randomly. It ranged from migrant workers to the possible relation between the Olympic silver (correct me if I’m wrong) medal won by an Indonesian weight lifter and the nation’s derogatory title: the land of porters. Yes, porters. The old man said that was the Indonesian first president’s quote. Can everyone tell me if Soekarno did mention the line somewhere in our national history records?

For anyone’s information, it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like any of these four people. In fact, I like the candidness the old man had managed to show me. I have something to ponder now, thanks to him.

Yet what bothers me even more is  the tickling question: How can we make this derogatory title part of history?

After all, what I at last learned is that everyone including you and me is racist from the very beginning. But again, the wisdom separates the fools from the erudite.

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