Understanding oppression

By: Charlotte Luft

South Africa, segregation and Hitler; what do these three things have in common? They are all perpetrators of oppression.

Oppression is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority.

To begin The College at Brockport’s annual Tunnel of Oppression, held in the Union Ballroom March 7-8, counselors from the Hazen Health Center asked groups going in the tunnel how they defined oppression.

Everyone was given a chance to add to the definition before continuing on to the first of nine rooms.

Upon entering the first room groups were presented a slideshow showing people with disabilities, created by Pi Kappa Phi. The guide for the tunnel then read to the group how people with disabilities are being oppressed because able-bodied people look down on them.

The group was then lead into the next room about suicide, created by Residential Life. In the room there was a 16-minute video playing where people who knew someone who committed suicide talked about the way it was dealt with by them and others. On the wall of the room were quotes such as, “I sat there and my mind played every bad memory, every failure, every negative thought until it was screaming so loudly in my head I wanted to scream out loud”.

The Office of Diversity did its room on micro-aggression. On the wall of the room there were pictures of people from the internet that had been whitewashed. Throughout the room there were also cards with examples of micro-aggression and a quote card where people could fill out experiences they have had.

Groups were then led into the Organization for Students of African Descent’s room which visually displayed segregation by a rope down the center of the room which displayed two desks; one representing the experiences black people face and the other the privilege white people experience. They displayed a white board with the racial slur students at the college got an email about during the fall semester as well as two white females on the track and field team at the college wearing blackface in an Instagram post.


Poster for the Tunnel of Oppression. Photo: courtesy of http://www1.web.brockport.edu/leadership/tunnel.html


Cultural Council displayed President Donald Trump’s America by placing quotes from the president up on their wall, visually building the physiological wall Trump has created since the beginning of his presidency.

Girl Up played a one-minute video featuring a young girl named Kidan who spoke about her dreams for the future only to have her mother at the end of the video explain why Kidan would not be able to achieve her dreams. After watching the video groups were asked to add a message to the board to send to Kidan.

War on Poverty was the theme Habitat for Humanity chose for their room. In its room it posted reasons why people were poor and statistical information about homeless people such as, “20-25 percent of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe/persistent mental illness”.

The National Society of Collegiate Scholars had two poster boards on the floor of their room. One of the posters featured facts about low-income schools and the other about high-income schools. One fact featured on the board was that low-income students are four years behind in grade level by the time reach 12th grade.

Women in Technology portrayed a room about the oppression of women in six different industries. There were six large sheets of paper in the shape of a body posted to the wall in the room with facts about each industry. The six industries that were focused on were: sports, media, financial and accounting, science technology engineering and math, legal, and medical.

The tunnel finished with the Hope Wall, which featured quotes from people who had been through the tunnel to keep people optimistic for change.

Students left the tunnel of oppression with more knowledge and a lot to think about in regards to different social issues.

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