What it takes to be a West Papuan

I always thought that I was a Papuan. Coming from a family with a generally homogenous background, I never doubted the fact that I am a Papuan. Well, granted, the fact that my mother comes from Kalimantan comes up from time to time. But living in the middle of people who don’t consider my hybrid-ness  an issue, I myself forget it. Growing up and simply being myself when I was in Papua is simply easier.

Then comes college. Since I wanted to be a historian from middle school, the search for a history major began. I landed in Jogja, as a history department student in Sanata Dharma University. Thank God for diversity in the department, since everyone did show an amazing level of tolerance with the fact that I’m simply not what a regular Javanese would expect, both in terms of behaviour and manners.

But it turns out, I’m not what people would expect from a West Papuan either. For a long time, I’ve been able to put it as an occasional nag. After all, my skin is lighter than most Papuans, I can speak Javanese, and I don’t hangout with fellow Papuans regularly. Lately, it’s getting harder to ignore. Apparently, I don’t have the  same harshness as the other Papuans, I’m not hot-headed enough, etc. Forget the fact that my identity card says I’m from Papua, the fact that I grew up there, the simple fact that I simply am a Papuan (keeping in fact that I’m not a pure one). It begs a question: What does it take to be a real Papuan? and this ain’t a political question. Why do I have to accord with the stereotypes simply to prove that I am? I’ve lived in West Papua for two-thirds of my life without anyone questioning my origin.

I’ve always believed that race and religion does not explain nor justify character. The fact that you are a Caucasian Catholic alcoholic for example, means you are simply a person who drinks excessively, Caucasian and Catholic instead of vice versa. Meaning to say that if I am not a person who fulfill the general identification (meaning black, hotheaded, socializing with my kind only), why does it make me less of a West Papuan?

Besides, if I’m not a Papuan then what am I?


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