UWO students explore types of oppression
Published: Thursday, November 18, 2010
Updated: Thursday, November 18, 2010 00:11
A turnout of 575 participants attended the Tunnel of Oppression Nov. 15 and 16 in Reeve Memorial Union, according to event coordinator Alicia Knipp.
Knipp said, the main goal was to educate and inspire people to want to take action or stand up to oppression.
For many students, staff and faculty who participated in the multimedia tour, it was just that.
"I left wanting to do something," social media specialist Melanie Stepanek from the UW Oshkosh admissions office said. "I felt hope for change."
The program ran every 15 minutes with a group of 15 or fewer participants who gathered in the Reeve concourse. They were then led to the second floor by a tour guide to begin the one-hour multimedia tour.
Stepanek said the intimate size of the tour groups helped individualize the experience.
"It wasn't a presentation, no speaker telling you what to think -- it was a journey that helped you absorb information and internalize it on a personal level," Stepanek said. "I think that's far more powerful and the best way to incite change."
The first room was the racism room, sponsored by the Multicultural Education Coalition, where a video was played depicting stereotypes that we construct in our heads from hearing someone else's voice over the phone and judging their race by their accent or tone. An example was questioning an African-American's heritage because they are lighter skinned with lighter eyes when that isn't the social "norm."
After the racism room was the homophobia room, sponsored by the Rainbow Alliance for H.O.P.E..The U-shaped room had walls decorated with past incidents of homosexual deaths around the country.
As people walked around the room and read the articles, playing in the background was an audio with homophobic slurs such as "queer" and "fag."
Junior Somthaly Xiong said the homophobia room was an eye-opener.
"It showed a lot of news happening around the area," Xiong said. "I felt sympathy for the people who are homosexuals as I walked around the room. They deserve the same rights as we heterosexuals do."
The oppression of global women room, put together by Courtney Bauder's Global Education class, showcased the harsh conditions women go through in less developed countries, the different types of violence that happen to women in America and harmful products that they ingest in their daily lives.
"For us women to use those products daily without even thinking twice and possibly passing it onto our children, I was just astonished," junior Gao Vang said.
After the oppression of global women room was the sexism room, run by CARE and the Women's Advocacy Council, where a discussion was brought to attention between the differences of how men and women try to protect themselves while going out to the bars or walking back to their car at night.
"I didn't really realize how much more women had to take caution than men," Xiong said. "Men had one or two things on the list, whereas girls had lots of things they did if they were going out late at night."
The last room was the genocide room, sponsored by the Hmong Student Union, where the participants were refugees in a Laos concentration camp trying to get to America. As the participants mazed their way to "America," they got to see the horrific conditions people went through in the camps, such as women getting beaten by Lao soldiers and people crying for help. It ended with a video of the current status of Hmong genocide in Laos today.
To lighten things up at the end of the tour, participants walked through a hallway called "There's a Light at the End of the Tunnel" and ended with a happy note of what people on campus thought of "diversity."
All participants were encouraged to sign a pledge stating that they will speak up when they hear or see bigotry. These pledges were pinned onto a wall down in the Reeve concourse.
According to Knipp, watching this program unfold and take place was amazing. She also said what people have to say about the program afterward and encouraging others to attend is always great to hear.
"The more that people become aware, the more they will hopefully want to become an advocate for change in our society," Knipp said.