Tunnel of Oppression


Commentary by Mariah Pepe

A wave of emotion flooded me as I exited the Tunnel of Oppression; I felt emotionally charged with thoughtfulness, sadness, anger, and confusion, but I mainly felt challenged to change my behavior in regards to the issues at hand.

Body image, suicide, homelessness and other issues prevalent in society were topics of skits during the Adams State College Tunnel of Oppression on March 1 and 2.

Sponsored by the Housing and Residence Life Department, the Tunnel of Oppression invited all students and faculty members to engage in difficult social issues. They set up the Tunnel of Oppression on the third floor of the Student Union Building, and developed a serious but welcoming environment to invoke discussion about prominent social issues.

After my group began its journey, our guide gave instructions that set the initial serious mood; the topics were sensitive and had the potential to bring up old memories.

At the start of the tunnel, our group entered a room where four students stood barely clothed and covered in hateful and demeaning remarks about their image. We hear these remarks everyday: “muffin top, fat ass, sexy, chicken legs”, but why do we allow these remarks to be so prominent in our daily lives? Nobody likes hearing them.

Next, students saw skits on perpetrating religious hatred, using slurs towards people of unique sexual orientations, suicide, and financial strains. Because of my personal experience with the issue, the suicide skit really hit home. We heard and watched a girl through a sheet as she wrote a suicide letter. She talked about being ostracized because she tried to kill herself before, and she longed for success this time around. The lights dimmed as she began to take her own life.

After participating in dyslexia and antiracism activities, there were videos about homeless people from La Puente. The housing department retold the stories of individuals in the first person. This was really great for me to see because I had just cooked dinner at La Puente that same night. I knew those people and their hardships, but hearing how optimistic they were about their future inspires me to be thankful for the blessings I have.

We finished by looking at news articles on many topics; we then sat down and read inspirational quotes on how to evoke a revolutionary change among our society. It was a call to action.

At the end of the tour, we were accompanied to the Student Life Center for a debriefing. One student mentioned his tendency to laugh difficult topics off; it’s easier to avoid them, but he wasn’t able to in such a forward environment. Another girl mentioned how she truly needed to know that people cared about making a difference; her girlfriend is on the softball team, who was humiliated at their last game by someone calling them “dikes”. Although most of the group remained tense and nervous, we were able to collaborate and realize that we can’t allow these issues to be so powerful and compelling in society. We must lead by example and demand a change.

I have never thought much about the hardships that the gay community faces on a daily basis, but I know that suicide and homelessness are prominent issues. I’ve had friends experience both, and it has forever altered who I am as a person today. I need to do more to help those experiencing social struggles beyond what directly affects me.

My group took this experience and went from a group of unaware individuals to a united front inspired to evoke a change in society.