“Part of the time I wanted to yell back at all of them,” junior Sarah Drake said. “It’s odd being yelled at by people who know nothing about you and are just making assumptions based on unfounded stereotypes.”
Students like Drake were subject to vulgar insults and obscenities at last week’s Tunnel of Oppression.
The Tunnel of Oppression event was put on by the Multicultural Student Services Center and is part of their Act Now Project which, in addition to the Tunnel of Oppression, had an art exhibit, a community organization fair, and many other events to bring awareness to human rights.
“They have really tried to hone it to something that college-aged students can get attached to, that they may not be able to relate to,” said graduate and Act Now volunteer, Jessica Cooper. “Having them experiencing it humanizes it for them.”
For this edition of the Tunnel, the themes of focus were on the Dream Act and the Add the Words campaign.
The Dream Act is a bill that would allow permanent residence for select immigrants who have graduated from high school and lived in the U.S. for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment. Add the Words is an organization fighting for equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the state of Idaho, in which currently there are none.
“I want students to know that discrimination exists in this state,” said activist Emilie Jackson-Edney. “It’s in your face and it’s blatant.”
Jackson-Edney, who herself is transgender, has been involved for several years in fighting for the LGBTQIA community. Jackson-Edney hopes that this event will be the start of change.
“Changing the laws isn’t going to get rid of discrimination, but the law change will make a statement,” said Jakcson-Edney. “It will say that we honor our citizens for who they are and say everyone should have equal rights.”
For many students, going through the Tunnel was a very difficult thing but an eye opening experience as well.
“It was a lot more unnerving than I thought it would be,” Drake said. “It definitely made me look at things differently.”
Perhaps even more difficult was the experience of the volunteers who acted in the Tunnel and were the ones that were hurling the insults out to students.
“It’s really hard,” said volunteer Amber Hastain. “It really does affect you, even if you think it won’t it does, and at the end of the day you have to tell yourself, ‘that is not who I am’.”
Despite the fact that this event takes a toll on them, the volunteers are glad to be a part of it to help educate students.
“It’s really great and I love being a part of the Tunnel of Oppression,” said Hastain.
In addition to subjecting students to these issues, the Multicultural Student Services Center and its volunteers are also hoping to inspire students to make a difference.
“Don’t be blind to the issues that are out there,” Hastain said. “If you hear things like what we are acting out, speak up and stand up for people.”