Remarks on the 2013 Tunnel of Oppression

Ever year at UNC, the campus holds a Tunnel of Oppression that attempts to create a positive social change around campus. This event is described as “an immersive experience of scenes where participants will experience first hands different forms of oppression” , mainly through interactive displays and models. Some of the topics included in this experience include ability, class, homophobia, religious oppression, relationship violence, and race. As these experiences are played out, it allows participants to rethink their role to create a positive social atmosphere. However, in the hour and a half experience that is the Tunnel of Oppression, this does not occur.

Many of the exercises that were included in this program include pointing out how individuals feel oppressed by society. This includes income inequality, learning disabilities, and certain positions on marriage. Instead of solutions, each program focused on how an individual felt that people misrepresented their position, and how they are set into stereotypes by society, such as an Islamic woman tired of people thinking she is a terrorist threat because of her faith.

One of the most interesting displays included talking about income inequality, in which a sign proclaiming that “1 percent of America has 40 percent of the nation’s wealth”. While this may be true, is that really oppression? Oppression is defined as “unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power” and “a sense of being weighed down in body or mind”. So, according to the definition of oppression, someone’s success has a burden to others, right? That is a ridiculous thought. We know that being wealthy isn’t an unjust use of power, so what is being wealthy? Possibly business success, but not according to the Tunnel of Oppression apparently.

While you sympathize with these causes, it is crucial to remember one thing: the Tunnel of Oppression provided no solutions. Not once was it mentioned on how to solve issues of homophobia, or how to even get around it. Every single presentation was focused on how people feel when being judged, which is a horrible idea.

The reason this is horrible is because of one idea: humans are adaptable. When there is a desire for change, it can, and is always, occurring. Take for example gay marriage. In 1996, on twenty-seven percent of Americans believed that gay marriage should be recognized. In 2012, that number jumped to half the American population.  People become more accepting of others every day, and as human beings we learn to grow and better understand other cultures and ideas in order to appreciate them. We don’t mellow on what horrible events occurred, but we learn about these events and how to better react to them.

The Tunnel of Oppression  solely derives its motive on how people react to horrible events and it fails to mention how far we have come as a society. As humans, we are bound to make mistakes and treat groups poorly. However, humans adapt to these changes. We gain knowledge on certain groups, and become better because of this. We do not need to be constantly told that we are wrong, because we are changing every day. If I ran the Tunnel of Oppression next year, it would consist of three parts consisting of what we did wrong in the past, how we changed for the future, and how we are better as a society today. That is what is needed in order to create a positive social atmosphere, not dwelling on how poorly people are getting treated by rubbing that in our faces for an hour and a half.

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