Dutch | Indonesian
I identify as Dutch, hetero and a spiritual agnost. My mother is Dutch, my father was born in Java, Indonesia. When he was little, he moved with his mother to the Netherlands. I don’t really know the details of how my parents met, but I guess they met in my birth city Groningen. My father actually wanted to move to the United States and he went to New York to find a way to make a living over there and to look for a house. When he came back, my mother got pregnant and they stayed here in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last that long, and they broke up when I was one year old.
I grew up in Groningen. I do have vague memories of my father when I was very little. My parents broke up, but my father visited me every now and then. I don’t know what happened, but after a while, I didn’t see my father for many years. My mother said he didn’t wanted to see me, and my father said that he wasn’t allowed to see me. I guess I would never know. When I was 12 I kept asking about my father and in my teenage years I grew a new relationship with my father.
So I grew up called Groningen, in a mixed neighbourhood, which I loved. I never felt different or weird and everyone had different backgrounds. When I was 9, my mother wanted to move back to her birth town: a small village in Drenthe called Roden. That was the first time where I felt ‘different’. My new school was so different, so ‘White’. I was almost the only one who had some colour on the skin.
It still took many years before I grew full awareness of my mixed ethnicity. I moved out of my mother’s house when I was very young. At age 16 I moved to Assen, lived on my own and finished my high school degree. In this area of the city, there is a large group of ‘Indo-Dutchies’. After WWII, when a lot of Indonesian people fled their country, a large group was placed here by the government. So, when I moved here, I got in touch with the culture for the first time. After I graduated from high school and went to university, I moved back to Groningen and started taking dancing classes.
There were A LOT of people with the same background in my dance school. Some of them were even born in Indonesia, still spoke Bahasa Indonesia, and flew back every couple of years to visit their family. That was the first time where I felt the urge to discover my roots and travel to Indonesia as well and meeting my family, brothers and sisters of my father. When I was 21, I packed my bags and went to Java and Bali for a month. It was the most enlightening thing I’ve ever done in my life.
During that same period, I started writing for HoezoIndo.nl. It literally means ‘Why Indo’, or, ‘what do you mean, Indo?’. The phrase basically says, you don’t look like an Indo, but apparently you are? Or, you definitely look like an Indo, but what do you mean you don’t feel like one? It is a feeling a lot of people with mixed race share. The founder of this platform, Armando Ello, he and I met years before at a photoshoot. He started this platform to bring Dutch people together with an Indonesian background (and vice versa) and bring awareness for their stories.
There are so many people who has family history in Indonesia because of WWII, but the older we get, and the more generations that passes, the more the stories and connection with it disappears. Armando is really good in activating people to search for their own history and bring awareness to what it means to be of mixed-race. Or even to figure out it doesn’t mean anything at all. That is ok too.
I have a very open-minded group of friends, though after I graduated from university, I moved to Amsterdam and I kind of ‘lost’ my Indonesian friends. We just grew apart. 99% of my friends are atheist or agnost. Race, sexual orientation, and religion doesn’t play any part.
I’ve been together with my Dutch boyfriend for 7 years. Before that, I did have a phase where I was falling for guys with the same background as me. Maybe it was the part what I was discovering about myself I found attractive in others. The exotic part, and one of the subjective parts of the idea that a lot of people with mixed-race are VERY attractive.
During my university time, I did several research projects about minority groups and attitudes of Dutch people towards those groups. Strangely enough, you don’t hear any negative stories about the Indonesian community. When they moved to Holland after WWII, they almost adapted TOO well to the Dutch culture. There is very little criminality and there is a different attitude to Indonesian people compared to the attitude towards, for example Moroccan people.
They also started experimenting at universities by giving exams without the names of students. You only fill in your student number. They implemented this because research showed that, without people are even are aware of it themselves, where grading people with a non-Dutch name lower on average, then people with a Dutch name.
The thing is, we are wired as human to make quick decisions. That’s how our brain works. If empirical and statistical evidence is showing that a certain group of people is more aggressive, it gives you an automatic response towards them, if you want it or not. It explains why we tend to discriminate so much. It is our duty as a human being to spread awareness about this, that it is all inside us, but we need to fight this urge to follow our primitive feelings. Just because there is bad in the world, doesn’t mean the whole world is bad.
Most of the time I don’t experience negativity due to my ethnicity. There was one time when I was one a holiday where I was talking about my mixed ethnicity with someone we met over there, and he started talking about me by using the words ‘people like you’. It wasn’t intentionally negative, but it did give me the sense that he perceived the world as the fact that there is a ‘us and them’. Though he was just curious about my background, it did make me feel like I was being stereotyped.
As I’m growing older, I’m starting to see more and more upsides of being mixed-race. Besides from being genetically blessed (getting tanned very easy, and my greasy skin that used to give me pimples as a teenager is preventing me from getting wrinkles for the next 40 years), it just makes you different, in a broad sense. Being different used to make me feel like an outsider, but I realize more and more it gives you some uniqueness. Something to stand out in the crowd. Not only on the outside, but you always have a story to tell.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I would want to come back even more happy and healthy.
The future IS mixed race. 30 Seconds to Mars released their new album ‘America’ this year. As a national campaign, they handed out DNA tests to everyone. To show that we all have multiple backgrounds in our DNA. I believe that humanity will only grow stronger by mixing our race.