While Black History Month is in full swing, students who found themselves in Nelson Hall on Feb.15 discovered something a little different.
The Tunnel of Oppression was a demonstration put on by Housing & Residence Life. The tunnel consisted of a series of skits that were meant to spread awareness of different forms of oppression, some that we see every day.
Sasha Wallace, an area coordinator for Housing and Residence is one of the facilitators of this project.
“We try to do this every year, but we were unable for the past two years,” Wallace said. “I’m really excited to get it going again.”
At the start of the tunnel, you are given a guide to lead you through the demonstration and help ensure that anyone who feels uncomfortable can be escorted out.
The first skit depicted two students walking and conversing in Spanish. A bystander approaches and barrages them with a wall of insults and racial slurs. The interaction ended with the attacker telling the pair to go back to Mexico. The skit was short, but it was something that most people have seen in their lives.
The second skit was something more relatable for Humboldt State students. Two students were on a computer looking for potential housing options. They get an opportunity to speak to a landlord who sounds assuring that they will get the place. When they arrive to see it, the landlord notices they are a lesbian couple. Immediately, the situation changes when she tells them the place is no longer available.
Elizabeth Alvarez, an HSU student and the landlord in the previous skit, felt being part of this project would be a good idea.
“I know there’s a problem with housing discrimination in Humboldt County,” Alvarez said. “I think it plays a huge part as to why HSU students have trouble finding housing.”
Between the skits, you can look at the various posters on the walls that contain information about different kinds of oppression.
Another skit showed a young woman at a bar by herself. She is approached by a man who persistently buys her drinks and makes her drink them. Another woman at the bar sees this happening and quickly takes the drunk girl from this man. She sits her down and helps her find a way to get back to her own house. This situation at HSU is often known as a “Check-It” situation.
Samantha Mariscal, an HSU student and a guide for the tunnel, was excited to be part of this project.
“It challenges you out of your comfort zone and it makes you think differently,” Mariscal said. “I witness some of these things every day and I just want people to be more aware.”
The final skit portrayed a student going to a meeting with his career advisor. The student shares his plans to go to UC Santa Cruz to be closer to his single father. He also discloses that English is his second language and he is having some trouble communicating. The career advisor refuses to even make eye contact with the student. Throughout the meeting the advisor is constantly putting him down and telling him to think about more “realistic” options. It gets to the point that the student feels so uncomfortable he asks to see another advisor, to which his request is denied. This skit was unique, as it showed faculty-to-student oppression, which is something a lot of people would not think of.
The event was in honor of Black History Month, a time designated to recognize the oppression black people face in our country, but was not specifically tailored to the topic.
At the end of the tunnel, you are taken to a debriefing room where you sit down with another person who lets you unpack everything you just saw.
Tyler Ramsey, an HSU student, was one of the people helping with debriefing.
“I’m always talking about social justice and I wanted to debrief so I can hear what other people thought of their experience here,” Ramsey said. “We want to show this to spread awareness. All we can do is educate people and hope they learn.”