It’s regarded as a sensitive subject to address the people of Eastern Indonesia who reside on Java island. For more than two decades, the Indonesian government has used a variety of policies to encourage development in the eastern part of Indonesia. However, the economic disparity between Indonesia’s eastern and western regions has barely narrowed since 2000. Hence, within the differences in society, which manifested themselves in various levels of inferiority and superiority, racism might arise. The good news is that racial discrimination against Eastern Indonesians has begun to be vocally criticized by Indonesians. Director Gleinda Stefany utterly uses a short film to examine the racial discrimination that the migrants from Eastern Indonesia have to suffer. Maria Ado’e (Gleinda Stefany, 2020) tells a story about Maria (17), an Indonesian citizen from East Nusa Tenggara, who was persuaded by her parents to pursue her studies in Java in the name of being successful. Maria frequently moves to boarding houses because other residents make fun of her appearance and the food she consumes.
The island of Java is commonly seen as prosperous. As a student residing in Yogyakarta, the majority of my college friends are from regions outside of the island of Java. Many outsiders migrated to Java for a myriad of purposes, including comprehensive facilities, abundant natural resources, the existence of the country’s capital city, and a huge number of job opportunities. Apparently, there is a contradiction here. Immigrants, particularly those from East Indonesia who come to Java with big expectations to be successful like Maria, are frequently subjected to an unpleasant attitude, which is nothing more than racial discrimination.
Maria has gotten used to discrimination on a daily basis. Maria has to live a nomadic existence to avoid being insulted because of her skin tone; sadly, after moving so many times, the insult continues to follow her everywhere she goes. Maria is continuously indoctrinated by her housemates, who make fun of her because of her different physical features. She engages in a variety of foolish behavior in order to get acceptance from her roommate. Her room is stocked with cosmetic and skincare products, and she’s constantly massaging and cleaning her arms —forcing herself to be white. This demonstrates how she was attempting to meet societal expectations. Moreover, Maria’s housemates also make fun of her for eating pork given from her mother. Maria struggled to embrace her own identity. At the end of the film, Maria is depicted doing a phone call with her mother and states that she wants to return to East Nusa Tenggara. Then her mom replied “you will be successful in Java. Please, be patient, kid…” This phrase is pitiful. It shows that there is a discrepancy that has to be faced by the foreigners who move to Java in search of a better life, only to be treated poorly.
There are, of course, so many other Maria out there. Maria’s experience leads to serious ramifications. Individuals like Maria will be alienated from discussions about their own future as a result of this treatment. It has the power to rob people of their dignity, land, autonomy, and human rights.
Associate Professor of the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Indonesia (FISIP UI), Drs Irwan Martua Hidayana, M.A. stated that racial discrimination and colonial history are inextricably linked. How the Netherlands (Europe) used to divide its conquered communities into social stratification. In Indonesia, there are three levels of stratification. The European group, the Foreign Eastern group, which was dominated by Chinese and Arab ancestry at the time, and the indigenous group. The roots of racism may be seen there.
Then, how long will this issue remain?
As what has been mentioned within the first paragraph, racial discrimination against Eastern Indonesians has begun to be vocally criticized by Indonesians. They began to recognize that racism is a major problem for the country and that the state should not remain silent. Racism must be condemned and must be identified as humanity’s shared enemy. The increasing number of critical young people on social media indicates that a new generation of Indonesians are starting to understand that humans —regardless of their race, skin color, gender, and other unique differences, have the capacity to discern and express whatever they want. Gleinda Stefany is indeed a living proof. At a young age, Gleinda utilizes film as a medium to address the subject of racism faced by the people of eastern Indonesia.
I have the impression that today’s generation is contemplating whether they still want to support past actions and ideals, such as violence, discrimination, and destruction towards the outsiders – in particular, the Eastern Indonesians – and what it truly means for a better future. Thus, certain actions are needed to demonstrate that you are a supporter of diversity, equality, inclusion, anti-racism.