Social challenges brought to light in Tunnel of Oppression
Attendees at the Tunnel
Graduate student Catalina Natal not only was able to relate but also reminded of the many different types of oppression that exist when she traveled through the Tunnel of Oppression.
“I think (oppression) is a well hidden issue,” Natal said. “I’ve gone through certain things, but not the same things as other people. (The tunnel) reminded me that this stuff is still going on.”
The Tunnel of Oppression, an annual event sponsored by the University Activities Board on Monday and Tuesday, was meant to force people to think about the different types of oppression that exist both in society and on campus.
“We put things in the tunnel that are literally happening on campus,” said Lead Director and doctoral student Zain Shamoon. “This is real.”
Before the audience was allowed to enter the Tunnel of Oppression at the Union, two group leaders welcomed students to participate in a “privilege walk.”
Each step forward students took represented a social advantage the student has. Each step backward represented a social disadvantage the student faces. It allowed the audience to start thinking about oppression as they started their hour-long journey into the tunnel.
The dimly-lit tunnel included many different scenes where actors performed a small skit that covered a type of oppression such as bullying, sexual abuse, racism and the objectification of women.
Most of the actors and actresses have experienced the types of oppression highlighted in their narrative skit, Shamoon said.
“We want people who are inspired by (their) topic,” Shamoon said. “I wouldn’t want to cast someone who hasn’t had these experiences, it would come off very distant and stereotypical.”
After the tunnel, participants were asked to join in a debriefing, where students could unpack their feelings about the event.
“We help open people’s eyes to different oppression that other individuals face, as well as acknowledging privilege that some of us do have, whether it be class privilege or ethnicity,” said international relations senior Tabitha Skervin, who was involved in the debriefing. “I think that oppression is prevalent in our society, and that trickles in our campus.”
Shamoon has been taking part in the event for the past 6 years and has been able to watch the event grow since it first started in 2008. Shamoon said the cast comes together like a family while sharing their experiences.
Shamoon said it’s important for students to be exposed to different types of oppression because many students aren’t aware of privilege and how it effects those who aren’t privileged.
“The people who have the greatest privilege are the ones that have the most ability to make change,” he said. “It’s about what you can do personally.”