Tunnel of Oppression was held Monday night to help students and community members become more aware of the unknown ways they may be contributing to the oppression of others.
“There are people who are oppressed, and even though it’s 2014 these things are still happening,” said Jazmine Griffin, Student Government Association Director of Multicultural Affairs. “You can go to college and have the same experiences and same conversations, or you can pay to be challenged and get educated on different things that are happening and be brought to reality.”
Griffin was the main coordinator of the annual SGA event, which was held in the Blue Ridge Ballroom of Plemmons Student Union on Monday from 5-10 p.m.
“It’s an event where students, faculty, staff and the community come together and see different forms of oppression, whether it’s sexual assault, racial issues, gender identity, sexual orientation,” Griffin said. “I hope people become more aware and become more cautious of what they’re saying and doing themselves. Just because you may think it’s not offensive, it will be offensive to someone.”
Various groups including the Muslim Student Association, Amnesty International, TRANSaction, Asian Student Association, Hillel, the LGBT Center, Black Student Association, the Women’s Center and the Hispanic Student Association made contributions to the event.
“At first you’ll walk through and you’ll be debriefed with what’s going to happen, and there’s a video,” Griffin said. “Then different groups, like multicultural clubs and just general clubs that we have built relationships with, are presenting skits.”
For example, Griffin said the Red Flag Educators did a skit on sexual harassment and rape culture, while BSA educated students on race relations.
Kai Des Etages, a volunteer for the event and sophomore management major, said she hopes the key aspect people who walked through the tunnel take from the event is awareness.
“We’re flashlight guides, so [we walked through], shedding light literally, on different situations,” Des Etages said. “I think there are lots of situations that if you don’t grow up with, you become unaware of being ignorant to it on accident. So you don’t know that some of the things you are saying are hurtful or that some of the situations you’re being put in are kind of uncomfortable for the other person.”
Patrick Long, an additional volunteer and junior psychology major, said Tunnel of Oppression can serve as a lesson.
“I think it gives an element of empathy, if you’re not exposed to situations, you really don’t know how to react to them,” Long said. “Even if you, yourself, will never experience that same situation, I think seeing one acted out, you can have that empathy in the future.”
Griffin’s personal definition of oppression included little phrases or questions people may use, such as “that’s so gay,” or “can I touch your hair?” with the indication that they are not necessarily meant to be hurtful.
“I define it as the progress of starting off from discrimination and prejudice to micro aggressions to little things that people say that they don’t necessarily mean,” Griffin said. “Just like those little things and over time, you categorize and marginalize them and put them in these groups because of their sexual orientation or race, you automatically think that you know them.”
Story: Nicole Caporaso, Senior News Reporter