This past weekend, a series of tweets landed Twitter user Kristen Gray in hot water. She’s an entrepreneur who moved to Bali with her girlfriend in 2019 to start a better life. After talking about her new lifestyle, many Indonesians asked her about her role in the gentrification of Bali.
It was such a heated debate on Twitter, that “Bali” was actually trending on the discover page for a few hours.
Here are some screenshots of her original tweets:
On one hand, I really love what Kristen is doing. As a digital nomad who’s spent two months in Bali myself, I guess I’ve contributed to the gentrification of Bali, too.
I love how she started her own business, found an inclusive place to live, and is happy with her girlfriend. And for what it’s worth, she said herself that she raises money to feed people on the island who are having a rough go of it.
She also said that Bali’s whole economy feeds off of tourism, and that many locals make money from tourists coming in. I agree with that, too.
She did receive criticism, though — particularly about how she’s contributing to the gentrification of Bali.
Many came to her defense and called “Indonesian Twitter” racist, which stoked these replies:
Twitter user ms.dita wrote, “When she’s here, she isn’t the triple minority anymore. She’s carrying her US privilege, without the right visa, and solely taking advantages in bali to make money. Not to mention in dollars. So, NOPE SHE’S NOT THAT OPPRESSED.”
I actually agree with this, too.
It’s possible to agree with both views. It’s possible to be happy for Kristen that she’s done so well and found a dream life in Bali, but it’s also possible to understand the reason she can thrive there in the first place is because of geo-arbitrage and American privilege.
In my estimation, people in America love to throw shade at each other over privilege and many bring race into the conversation, too.
I think that’s warranted. White privilege definitely exists. However, many times Americans fail to realize that on a global scale, regardless of race, we’re all quite privileged.
And it took a few of Kristen’s tweets to open up this Pandora’s box.
Here’s a few more responses..
Twitter user Kopiganja tweeted “Indonesia Twitter bullying a triple minority couple who fled the oppression of her homeland for a better life and found sanctuary in Bali is peak Indonesia Twitter.”
I can understand Kopiganja’s tweets and I recognize their points. However, calling someone who’s living her best life in a villa in Bali “oppressed” seems hyperbolic.
It’s not like Kristen is a Syrian refuge or something.
Kristen is thriving with her girlfriend in a beautiful place and likely learning so much about the world in the process. But the reason she’s even there in the first place shows how privileged she actually is.
Twitter users defending Kristen and calling Indonesians racist is a bit short-sighted when Kristen is the real “Queen” here contributing to pushing Indonesians out of their ancestral home and doing so simply because she makes American dollars.
Who’s really oppressed?
Twitter user cerseiofmoors echoed these sentiments about American privilege.
It’s so interesting to watch Americans assume race is apart of this equation and then get shut down by Indonesians who simply say “Nope, you know what? We actually don’t care what color you are.”
Many Indonesians said the Americans were looking at this through a US-centric view, and that privilege basically has levels to it.
Here’s one final tweet before I end this discussion..
It’s somewhat interesting because I’m not a big believer that tourists are to blame for the gentrification in Bali. Why not blame the government of Indonesia/Bali for the overpopulation?
In the Philippines, the government does a great job to regulate construction so that their most pristine beaches remain beautiful.
In Bali there’s a Hard Rock Cafe.
I digress. I don’t really want to make a point here about gentrification. I want to steer this more towards privilege and even race.
Americans Don’t Know How Privileged We Are
I’ve written about this before, so I’ll say it again — I really hate comparing oppression and suffering between two peoples and seeing how one stacks up against the other.
But I think fair points are made here that many folks don’t consider.
At the end of the day, people can play the race card and talk about oppression in America.
But when you consider how poor the rest of the planet really is compared to America, the suffering that many say they endure in this country doesn’t stack up to the suffering that many feel in developing countries like Indonesia.
That doesn’t mean that certain Americans should shut the fuck up about how oppressed they are. Not at all. They should continue speaking up. But if Kristen and her defenders really knew just how privileged Americans actually are, this blog post wouldn’t exist.
And the fact that this even became a trending topic on Twitter in the first place shows that a lot of Americans have no idea what they’re talking about.
And we are privileged. It takes going to a third-world country to understand. Hell, Kristen’s been there for two years now and still doesn’t seem to fully grasp her privilege.
It took me a while to understand it, too.
In a way I was happy this topic trended on Twitter. For a while I thought that criticizing Americans for overblowing their problems was a bad thing to do. I thought I simply had no idea what I was talking about or something.
But seeing the reactions on Twitter showed me how much ignorance actually exists surrounding this topic — even in those who live in these countries, earn American dollars, and profit from geo-arbitrage.
It just makes me believe in my point even stronger..
If you’re American, you’re privileged. It’s that simple.