Each spring semester, Lee University's Residential Life and Housing staff diligently work to host the Tunnel of Oppression, an interactive walk-through event that aims to educate participants about issues faced by minorities.
This year’s Tunnel of Oppression was held in the Humanities building, with six different rooms that centered around discrimination faced by African Americans, people of Middle Eastern descent, refugees, Hispanic immigrants, Muslims and sexual minorities.
Area Coordinator in Res Life and Housing Katie Rutkowski said she believes this event helped people recognize the daily activities of minorities in the face of oppression.
“For a long time, whether it has been another culture, whether it has been people of privilege, whether that’s socioeconomic status, whether that is race, whether that is ethnicity, whether that is gender…people need a space to think about, ‘Okay, where do I sit in that conversation?’” Rutkowski said.
Rutkowski said that oftentimes people are inclined to just assume they know someone based on their own perspectives, world views or experiences.
“It’s really easy to generalize people groups of all kinds,” Rutkowski said. “I think [it] is truly crucial to create space because for a long time…especially the Caucasian people have spoken for minority students and minority people, rather than allowing them to say, ‘Well this is who I am, let me help you understand me.’”
Freshman music education major Abbi Fec said that she was challenged to be more self-aware about the issues minorities face.
“I think I can definitely not assume as much about people and get to know their hearts and their spirits,” Fec said. “I kind of just assumed…not that [oppression] was gone, but that it was getting better. But, I think…I was kind of just numb to how people really treat [minorities].”
During the event, a video was shown that challenged Lee University to incorporate courses on Asian History or Middle Eastern History.
Rutkowski believes that this process of inclusion should start with the acknowledgment and desire to learn about other cultures, apart from just the Western culture.
“I do think it starts with people being open and willing to kind of lay down their own [beliefs] on what they think is important,” Rutkowski said. “I think a lot of times we can say, ‘oh, well let’s have some kind of culture event…’ because I think those things are important…but if we stay there and we don’t really get to know people for the things that they love, the things that they are passionate about, the things that they are gifted in, then it stays kind of in a shallow understanding of someone else.”
Rutkowski believes that we should ask ourselves whether Lee feels welcoming to all groups of people—and if it doesn’t, she says we should think about why certain groups feel that way, and how we can make a positive change.
For additional information about this the Tunnel of Oppression, contact email@example.com.