Tunnel of Oppression

I meant to get started on my pile of work right away but I just had this urge to write about the Tunnel of Oppression that went on today in the Colony Ballroom. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to attend, here is my spiel from doing briefings today: basically the Tunnel of Oppression is a student-led initiative to raise awareness about oppression in today’s society. It was conceptualized, created, and built completely by students, both undergraduate and graduate. The tunnel was not exactly a tunnel but more like four connected rooms.

The first room you went into was the Oppression against Women room which included such things as a wage calculator to show the difference in wages between men and women (want proof? take a look at the salary schedule published by the Diamondback a few days ago), a huge model of a Barbie complete with “accurate” measurements that showed that a real person with such a big bust and such a tiny waist wouldn’t even be able to stand up straight, videos and statistics about rape, a wall about genital mutilation, a really interesting display about drug trafficking and how women will swallow rubber packets of drugs to transport them (if the rubber bursts the drugs get into their system and cause some serious medical problems- if they don’t burst guess where they retrieve the packets from…?), and abortion and the like. There was alot more than that but that’s all I can remember for now.

The next room was one of the most hard-hitting rooms; Racial Oppression. They had exhibits about the gas chambers used in the Holocaust (they even used a fog machine), the Black Panthers, Rodney King, racial profiling, KKK, lynchings, Sudan, caste system, etc. They also had exhibits about the recent articles in the Diamondback op/ed section dealing with race, and the recalled Abercrombie and Fitch shirts that said such things as “Two Wongs Don’t Make a White” and “Let’s Wok n’ Bowl”. I’m REALLY downplaying this room because I was inundated with so much information that I can’t even begin to remember all of it.

The next room was the Oppression against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). They had some really interesting murals about the cost of MTF OR FTM surgery (male to female, female to male) and how transgender people are forced to choose between a binary restroom system. They also devoted a large part of their room to Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old student who was beaten to death because he was gay. The room also highlighted some very derogatory statements made by very prominent people (Mel Gibson, high ranking religious officials, etc.), and how some people take offense to “gay people acting too blatantly” when heterosexual people can act as outrageously as they want in public with no consequences. I thought this room was awesome.

The last room was called Tools of Oppression and they showed the different ways oppression can be conveyed through means such as the media, legislation, and widely-accepted standards. The first thing they had was a recording of the VERY offensive “Tsunami Song” that aired on a public radio station in New York City called WQHT-HOT 97. Here are the lyrics:

There was a time, when the sun was shinig bright
So I went down to the beach to catch me a tan
Then the next thing I knew
A wave 20 feet high came and wash your country away
And all at once, you can hear the screaming ch*nks.

And the no one was safe from the wave.
There was Africans drowning, little Chinamen swept away
You can hear God laughing, swim you b*****s, swim.

So now you’re screwed, it’s the tsunami,
You better run and kiss your a** awake, go find your mommy.
I just saw her float by, a tree right through her head.
And now your children will be sold in child slavery.

(Imitating Micheal Jackson)
“Oh on, please not the kids. I’ll pay for all the kids.
all the little Indonesian kid, the little Asian kids, the Chinese kids.
the black, oh well, not the Black kids.
the White kids, the Puerto Rican kids.
I love them all. I’ll pay for everything.
I promise I won’t touch them.”

Ugh just reading those again makes me so angry. I don’t understand how you can mock such a devastating natural disaster that killed over 300,000.

The next part of this room showed how our culture has trained us to believe we live in a man’s world. They had you fill in the blanks to phrases such as:
If your house is on fire who comes to put out the fire? the FIRE____
Who delivers your mail? the MAIL___

I think this is more of an issue with the evolution of language than with gender discrimination, but that’s just my opinion.

They had a big exhibit about the food pyramid and how it is racist in that it fails to take into consideration that approximately “90 percent of Asian-Americans, 70 percent of African-Americans, 70 percent of Native Americans and 53 percent of Hispanics” are lactose intolerant. Just something to think about. One of the most interesting things they had was a computer program that simulated what life would be like under a government that infringed on our privacy rights to the greatest extent (Patriot Act anyone?). The program showed how a simple thing like ordering pizza could turn into an ordeal when the person taking your order has access to any and all information about you including your recent purchases, medical records, preferences, police records, etc. There were alot more things in this room but I can’t remember them right now.

OK so after this last room you walked out and there were huge sheets of mural paper taped up to the wall to form a sort of “Relfection Wall” where everyone wrote down their thoughts about the tunnel and what they felt. I was reading through the comments when we were cleaning up and most of them were really insightful and really made me think about the purpose of the event. One of my favorites was ” I liked the tunnel but the people who really need to see it aren’t going to be here.” This is definitely true and something we need to take into consideration for next year.

If you’re interested in helping out with the Tunnel of Oppression next year ( I know I am!) just let me know and I’ll put you in contact with the program directors. I wish I had found out about this earlier and been able to help with the rooms and such but there’s always next year!

Oh yeah I learned about two other really interesting organizations:

Did you know there is an organization in the DC area for the LGBT South Asian Community and its allies? Check out their website: http://www.khushdc.org
One of the things I can’t stand is intolerance for alternative lifestyles, so it’s good to see that there is a strong community organization in the area. I feel like “coming out” for South Asians is still so taboo and it’s just recently that such groups have been popping up. After being suppressed for so long it’s great to see the beginnings of solidarity and support for them not only in the area, but nation-wide.

Another amazing effort I learned about recently from an Asia Society Event in NYC:
“Breakthrough is an international human rights organization that uses education and popular culture to promote values of dignity, equality, and justice.”
Some of there more recent action items include reducing the risk if HIV/AIDS for women in India and dealing with unjustified detentions and deportations of immigrants in the US.

yeah so that was a really long entry but I just had so much going on in my head that I had to get it out before I could start my work!

Again, comments (regardless of relevance) would be greatly appreciated!!!!!!

oh last thing, kind of going along with this whole theme:
Watch this Sarah McLachlan video- it’s really profound (more like my new SAS theme song….)


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