It is no secret that white privilege is real. Pacific Island has been dominated by the same image – light skin and straight or wavy hair. That is not the case since there are many people from there of different races as well. Since West Papua is also included, Cyndi Makabory speaks as one of the Melanesian women in the region.
Who Is Cyndi Makabory?
This 24-year-old climate change activist currently resides in Melbourne, Australia. Originally, Cyndi was from West Papua. Growing up in Australia, Cyndi did not feel the pressure of having her natural features. She also did not experience any pressure from anyone she knew regarding her ethnicity.
It was then Cyndi began to realize something as she enrolled in a Catholic private school for girls. The school population was dominated by Caucasian students. Although she did not experience any types of bullying, some of the things her peers did to her had made her feel uncomfortable.
“They would constantly touch my hair without my permission and said, ‘Oh, it’s like a poodle,’” Cyndi admitted. She even mentioned that some of her friends had returned from their summer break at the beach once. They made comments like: “Oh, now I’m almost as dark as you.”
Those were not the only unpleasant experiences that Cyndi had had. Cyndi has always felt that she has to work twice as hard just to get noticed and acknowledged all through her life. Not only at school, at university, and work, Cyndi has experienced the same thing too in her dating life.
It has taken her a while to have started voicing her concern – and showing her pride as a Melanesian woman from West Papua. On bigger online platforms like Pacific Islander social media platforms and by calling on non-Pacific Islander social media platforms, Cyndi takes part in amplifying the voices of Black Islanders.
“Knowing that Melanesian women are Black Islander people from the South Pacific is so important for the rest of the world,” Cyndi stated. “We exist. Our voice, lives, and also experiences matter too.”
There has been this thing called inlander mentality and a huge influence of white supremacy, resulting in white privilege. It is a mental attitude that values colonizers (which, in reality by history, were Caucasians) and white skin color more than other races with darker skin color. This has affected how one views themselves and the world around them in the long run.
Cyndi is hoping that, through the consistent effort to make black Melanesian voices be heard loud enough for the world to hear, there will be mental decolonization that will bridge the artificial gap between them and Polynesians. According to her, although Polynesians are not white, there is a sense of consequent anti-blackness caused by the affinity to whiteness.
From Climate Change to Human Rights Issues
Although having resided in Melbourne, Australia, Cyndi will never forget her root in life. In October 2019, she was the first guest speaker at a climate change rally there. She had also spoken about the effect of climate change in her region and also West Papua, which she still called her ‘homeland’.
Climate change issues are also related to human rights issues. With many homelands are torn by ecological exploitations, Cyndi has followed in her mother’s footsteps in activism. In June 2020, in the middle of the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cyndi had also said her piece regarding the tragedy of police brutality in the USA – which had cost the life of George Floyd and started the movements with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Not only that, the hashtag later inspired Indonesians with #PapuanLivesMatter.
During the anti-racism rally with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Cyndi was giving a speech regarding the death of George Floyd and that justice for him be demanded.
Cyndi also added in her speech the importance of all the indigenous West Papuans – men and women alike – to be proud of their skin color, race, and cultural heritage. Her speech had gone viral that month, inspiring fellow people in her homeland to always be proud of who they are and stand up for themselves. That was her solidarity among the blacks, including her brothers and sisters in West Papua.
Cyndi Makabory is the daughter of Paula Makabory, an activist who is also a member of the West Papua National Coalition of Liberation. According to Paula, West Papuans are also part of the Melanesian family. Although the region is part of Indonesia, she does not consider West Papuans as Asians.
Besides West Papua, Maluku, and more, Melanesians also live in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands. The name itself, “Melanesia”, is actually derived from Greek. “Melas” means “black” and “nesia” means “islands”.
Cyndi Makabory still has a long way to go as a climate change activist. Hopefully, she will continue to inspire fellow indigenous West Papuans to be proud of who they are as a whole.