What if this was your life?
Angry shouts. Foreign soldiers in your street pointing guns at you. Burning crosses. Swastikas. Streets littered with trash and crumbling buildings.
What if these sights and sounds were your life?
Images and experiences like these are incorporated into the Tunnel of Oppression, a giant black multimedia tunnel with a series of museum-like rooms designed to educate and help you empathize with the experience of oppression. The tunnel will be open to everyone through Feb. 18 on the second floor of the Atkins-Holman Student Commons.
The rooms will address:
- Socioeconomic disparity
- Environmental racism
- Gender objectification and body image
- Violence, including war, hate crimes and gender-based violence
- Sexual orientation
- International prejudice and insensitivity
- Disabilities, including mental, physical and cognitive
- Religious differences.
Kim Coke, director of Student Development, organized the tunnel, and Residential Life, residence hall advisers, peer educators, the International Club, Horizons Gay Straight Alliance, Psychology Club and other campus departments and organizations contributed to the rooms.
Coke says that such tunnels have been built on numerous campuses across the U.S. since the early 1990s and that they are designed to make participants question their lives and actions.
One side of the environmental racism room, for example, will be littered with trash and the other side will be pristine. Which side would you walk on?
No one questions the tunnels' effectiveness. In other tunnels, tunnel-goers were cast as Jews in a Nazi gas chamber, handcuffed to a wall to simulate slavery and forced to confront their “ableism” by trying to perform tasks while blindfolded or while sitting in a wheelchair.
The Columbia College tunnel doesn't go to such extremes, but still evokes strong feelings, says Coke.
"Yes, the material in the tunnel may be difficult to experience," she says. "The rooms are designed to take participants out of their comfort zone to see, touch, hear and feel the realities of oppression as a stepping stone towards creating awareness. The Tunnel of Oppression is intended to be eye-opening and consciousness-raising, and I'm proud to see Columbia College students, faculty and staff work so hard on it."
Most individuals entering the tunnel will be tourists. Yet the contents of these rooms are daily life for many people across the globe today.