Last week, from March 28 through 30, the UND Women’s Center invited students to “step out of your comfort zone and into the tunnel.” The “Tunnel of Oppression” is a tour that engages students and community members in a firsthand look at what oppression feels like. The tour puts you in the shoes of a collection of different groups that experience unjust treatment, distress and trauma every single day.
According to staff, “The Tunnel of Oppression serves to educate and inspire participants in the hopes of building a more inclusive, knowledgeable and caring environment.”
During the tour, groups go down a dimly lit hallway, making stops in several different rooms. Each room features a different aspect of oppressive treatment and the effects felt by the people involved. The topics are illustrated through methods like visual displays, acting, activities and multimedia.
Nine topics were displayed in the tunnel: mental health, dementia, racism and police brutality, the Dakota Access Pipeline, unhealthy relationships, LGBTQ+ and Ally awareness, cyber-bullying, domestic violence and sexual assault and the “Power of One.”
The content in the rooms helps to make clear the idea that oppression doesn’t come in one form. Sometimes it’s easy to see and sometimes it’s hidden beneath the surface. Our society tends to normalize these issues and sweep them under the rug. We tell an anxious, depressed person to stop faking and just get it together. We condition women to watch what they wear and do, instead of teaching young adults not to treat women as sexual objects. We see acts of violence and hate happening all the time, but do we step in or step to the side?
The tunnel is designed to get you out of your comfort zone and open your mind to subjects aren’t easy to talk about. While these topics may be uncomfortable, acknowledging and learning about oppression is necessary in making a positive change.
Bell Hooks, an American author and social activist, said, “Being oppressed means the absence of choice.”
People don’t get to choose their race, their sexual orientation or their mental health. However, they are marginalized for differences out of their control. People experiencing oppression are trapped in a system that is stacked against them.
The last room in the tour is entitled “Power of One.” This room raises the idea that change starts with one person, and encourages us to “be the change you want to see.” It’s not easy to change the world, but we all change our own worlds. While we can’t decided how we’re treated, we can decide how to treat others. We have the power to choose to be respectful and kind, to be an ally, to pick people up instead of putting them down. If everyone made that choice, who knows what the world would be like?
An array of organizations were involved in the event as sponsors and advocates, including the UND Women’s Center, the Ten Percent Society, the UND Pride Center, the International Center, Multicultural Programs and Services and many others. It’s refreshing to see so many people and groups making an effort to raise awareness of the cruel things that go on around us.
If you or someone you know have experienced any form of oppression or trauma and want to talk about it, there are services on campus that are here to help. The University Counseling Center, as well as Student Health Services and the Women’s Center all exist for the well-being of the students and are there to listen.
The UND Women’s Center works to foster an environment which supports diversity and social equality. It’s a safe space for all students to seek information regarding mental and physical health and personal growth. The center offers a variety of educational programs promoting empowerment and diversity. It is located in room 262 of the Memorial Union.
Ben Godfrey is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]