Enlightenment waiting at end of ‘Tunnel of Oppression’

Benches and restrooms labeled “white only” or “colored people,” instructions showing how to tie a noose posted onto a tree accompanied by jokes about lynching.

These and other images were used the past two nights in the “Tunnel of Oppression,” a multimedia tour held at the Andros Center.

Residence Services coordinated the program, in conjunction with FACES (Facilitating Awareness in our Community through Education and Support), a group comprised of 20-25 graduate and undergraduate students and resident advisors. The aim of FACES is to challenge people’s thoughts, perceptions and inner feelings concerning oppression.

William Evans, Argos Area Coordinator for Residence Services, said there is a need for people to see others who are oppressed and to come to grips with it.

“Far too often other people want to think racism, oppression and body imagism don’t exist,” Evans said. “Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

More than 100 people visited “The Tunnel of Oppression” on Monday evening. The tour traveled throughout the Andros Center, bringing students and others face to face with acts and portrayals of various forms of oppression.

First, visitors walk by a tree on which are posted instructions on how to tie a hangman’s noose knot. Also posted is a “joke” likening the rebirth of swing dancing to a revival of lynching. The joke was taken from a white supremacist Web site.

Also shown was a color projection of a photo of two smiling white men holding a black man over an open fire.

Next, a man dressed as a Nazi official yelled religious epithets at visitors, instructing them to enter an open-air room. They were then sternly told to “keep their noses to the wall.”

The official then closed the gate to the room, and proceeded to turn a spigot, which released what sounded like poison gas.

“(We) want people to step out of their comfort zones,” said Dave Roberts, a graduate student and Resident Director of Fontana Hall.

Roberts said showing people things they aren’t accustomed to seeing sheds light on problems in society.

“We’d like to raise social consciousness here (at USF),” Roberts said.

An advisor to FACES, Roberts was one of many student volunteers who acted in various skits during the program. The skits touched on a multitude of societal problems, such as racism, homophobia, ablism, sexism and false images of beauty in the media.

One scene featured two friends saying homophobic slurs in the presence of a third, homosexual friend. In another sketch, two female students say racial slurs about the Asian roommate of one of the students, while the Asian roommate listens from around a corner. She then castigates the two and leaves the area crying.

Other skits dealt with a female student being ridiculed by friends and family for gaining weight and people speaking their native languages in public.

Evans said he’d like students to leave the program with the idea that they can stand up for others who are oppressed.

“If they see oppression, they’ll have a face or image to associate (with the oppression) and will be more likely to speak out,” Evans said.

He hopes the program will be an annual event at USF.