*You can find most of this year’s Tunnel in the video above. However, due to a technical issue, the last scene of the Tunnel is not included.
There are few bonds on campus that run longer and deeper than my bond with the Tunnel of Oppression. Having proudly participated all three years that it’s been on campus, I think that I come as close to being a Tunneler Expert as any man on campus. As such, it is my duty- Nay! My solemn privilege- to provide, yet again, a brilliant and insightful commentary on this year’s Tunnel.
My greatest disappointment this year was a lack of a theme for the Tunnel. Personally, my favorite was last year’s Willy Wonka Theme, but this year there wasn’t one. Really disappointing. And there’s so much to pick from, Twilight, Hunger Games, Dr. Seuss… so sad.
First up was the “Privilege Walk” (take one step forward if you’re a privileged white, heterosexual male, take one step back if you’re not). This was more or less consistent with what they’ve done in the past, so I won’t comment too much on that. Though, they really could have gone wild with a Hunger Games theme here (“everyone with white, heterosexual, Christian parents, battle to death!).
However, they did modify the Disabilities Awareness Room. Last year, if you’ll recall, they had a student with Dyslexia sitting at a desk, taking a test, with a teacher screaming at her to hurry up. As several people pointed out, such a situation was highly improbable mostly because it was very illegal (kind of like the love between a vampire and a werewolf). This year, they had the same student, but instead of a teaching yelling at the student, they had another student complaining to the teacher about the special accommodations being provided to the Dyslexic student. While this is a slightly more plausible situation, I’m not sure that it’s all that plausible. Assuming we’re talking about college students and not 8-year olds, I’m not sure that your typical college student is going to go up to the professor and whine about how the girl with Dyslexia gets extra time to finish her test. Realistically, who wants to be known as the person who throws a bitch fit (pardon the French) about it because the girl who can’t read gets a few extra minutes on her test? I think it’s one of those situations where peer pressure can actually act as a reinforcement for more charitable action. Besides, it’s also my understanding that students with learning disabilities have the option of taking their tests at the Disabilities Center, where they would not have to worry about any negative, external pressures from their peers. So, again, a non-issue.
Next up was a body image scene. I think what was most interesting about this bit was some of the stats they had posted around the room, things like 8 in 10 children are afraid of become fat, etc. Of course, when you’ve got the First Lady of the United States running around telling everyone that they’re fat and need to lost weight, these resulting mentalities shouldn’t really be all that unexpected. Perhaps if the government wasn’t so keen on forcing everyone to live what they deem a “healthy lifestyle,” people wouldn’t be as obsessed with how they look. Of course, pop culture also plays a role (which I believe the Tunnel covered pretty well), but we mustn’t underestimate the effect of things like the Let’s Move! program.
The Religion scene was a bit better this year. It consisted largely of a group of students (each representing a different religion) discussing different religious stereotypes (e.g. Jews are rich, Christians are Bible Thumpers, etc.). Nothing terribly controversial here, though given the rather condescending attitude that often greets religion on campus, it’s definitely an area worth covering.
We finally got some fireworks in the Homophobia Room. Now, I’ve always thought that the word, “homophobia,” was always a bit of a misnomer. I have yet to meet a person who’s legitimately scared of homosexuals (unlike, say a tree’s Thneedophobia). Though, perhaps if more people were homophobic, it would make the homosexuals quest for “equality” a little easier. They could just hang out near polling places and scare all those bigoted homophobes away from the polls. You know, kind of like the Black Panthers are apt to do. Anyway… The scene starts out with a couple students studying. A few more students wander in, one of the male students kisses his boyfriend, and the other students then proceed to gossip about the apparently homosexual student on the other side of the room. The other students get up and knock a few books off the homosexual student’s desk on the way out. Finally, this student relates a couple stories about abuse gay students receive off campus, mostly notably being picked on in bars and the like (he relates how, in one instance, someone threw an orange at him in a bar). Supposedly, these stories were based on actual events at UNC. But I kind of have a hard time believing that. Particularly with regard to homosexuality, UNC is one of the most tolerant places on the planet. While it’s conceivable that maybe (a very big maybe) something like the bullying evident in the scene occurred, in my four years here (a large time of which was spent hanging out in more conservative circles, where supposedly such obnoxious bullying would originate) I have yet to see anything that remotely approaches the malice presented in the Tunnel.
As far as the anecdotes regarding the bars go, I also have a hard time that a bouncer (or bar owner or other responsible party) would sit by while someone attempts to start a food fight in his bar. Aside from the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever even seen an orange in a bar (except for a small slice in my Blue Moon, which I highly recommend), bar fights aren’t exactly good for business. But let’s assume it did happen. It’s a little presumptive to think that just because someone throws an orange at you, it’s because he hates you because you’re gay (or a vampire). More likely it’s because he was drunk and wasn’t really thinking clearly. Or maybe he wasn’t even aiming for you (I myself tend to have rather terrible aim and have a tendency to hit everything except what I’m actually aiming for- part of the reason I don’t play baseball). But then that would ruin the story wouldn’t it? You can’t very well cast yourself as a down-trodden victim of oppression, if your supposed oppressor was just drunk. I also realize that this is all taking place with Amendment 1hanging out in the background, so I understand if some people want to push an agenda, but I don’t believe that the scene, as presented, is an accurate depiction of the environment at UNC.
Human Trafficking was next. I think the most interesting aspect of this scene was the bit where the illegal alien relayed some of the financial difficulties she was having with her boss (e.g. receiving less than the minimum wage, watching her entire paycheck disappear in a flurry of employer deductions, etc.). While her situation is certainly tragic, it’s not entirely unpredictable. When you enter this country (or any country really) illegally, you can’t really expect to have the full protection of the law. While you can certainly make appeals to human justice, etc., those don’t really have the same staying power as a cop with a gun and handcuffs. In my humble opinion, this is one of the largest problems with America’s current immigration policy, which doesn’t merely condone illegal immigration, but outright encourages it. The people who are here illegally are often not protected by any sort of law (because you can’t very well wander up to the Department of Labor and file a wage complaint if you’re not even supposed to be here in the first place), so they open themselves up to exploitation (from capitalist Thneeders). This, I think, is the greatest tragedy of illegal immigration, and one that often goes unappreciated by the open borders types.
The Relationship Violence scene was fairly similar to previous years’ presentations, so in the interest of space (and holding your interest), I shall proceed to the final room, the Race Room. Unfortunately, this was the only room I was unable to record (my spy camera has limits apparently, I’ll be having a discussion with James Bond about that), so I’m having to go completely off memory on this one. From what I can recall, there were four (or maybe three) girls in the room, one black, one white, one Asian, and one Indian (I think). The Asian girl largely complained about how people look at her funny and make fun of the way her mother talks and what she eats for lunch. Personally, I found this kind of amusing. When I was in China, I got stares (literally) from the natives all the time. I don’t think they even realized they were doing it half the time, but it was kind of amusing to go walking down the street and have scores of Chinese people turn their heads to look at you. The toddlers were always the best, because they would point and then get these looks of utter bewilderment on their faces- kind of cute in a way. This happened nearly every time I went out (though it occurred more frequently in Anyang, where the white man rarely treads, than in Beijing). I was never really bothered by it. It was kind of amusing. That and I could always swap stories with the other foreigners in my program (the best one I heard was of a guy riding his bike, who turned to look at one of the American students, and then proceeded to ride right into a wall). I can’t even imagine what my Chinese sounds like to a native (though my teachers did make me do some rather interesting tone exercises in an effort to purge my accent).
I don’t think whatever gawking (here intended more broadly than just physically looking at someone) goes on between Americans and Asians is due to racism, but due more to the large differences between the two cultures. We’re just very different from each other and have completely different cultural underpinnings (and they eat weird things that we would never dream of eating and vice-versa). I think the gawking results more from a genuine curiosity about the other culture more than anything else. And I think when someone goes up to you in the cafeteria and asks what that weird, noodlely concoction in your lunchbox is, it isn’t because they’re trying to make fun of you (though maybe they are), but because they want to learn more about what you’re eating. It’s an invitation to share cultures. If we all just pretend that nothing’s unique and are afraid to ask questions because we’re afraid of being labeled a racist, that doesn’t make for a very interesting world and does nothing to bridge cultural divides.
The other girl who stood out was the white girl, who apparently was the embodiment of white guilt. She talked about how she’s been pulled over three times and never given a ticket, easily got into college and found a job, etc. Well, as the stereotypical white male, I’d like to know her secret. Personally, I find the suggestion that everything I have I have simply because I’m white offensive. I’ve worked hard to get where I am and have had nothing handed to me on a silver platter. I haven’t the slightest guilt (racial or otherwise) because everything I have is the result of hard work and determination.
And I don’t think that is true simply for me. The idea that white people have some sort of advantage over other races is absurd. This actually came up in the post-Tunnel discussion group, specifically concerning Affirmative Action. Several members of my group brought up the point that racism, properly defined, is simply a situation where race factors into a person’s decision about how to act. Affirmative Action, which is solely based on race, is nothing more than reverse-discrimination. It offers preferential treatment to applicants who are non-white and non-Asian, racism in its purest form. Of course, when the group raised this point, the moderator quickly attempted to redefine what Affirmative Action “actually” is. Apparently isn’t a form of reverse discrimination (California begs to differ), but it’s merely an attempt by university administrators to put together the best possible class from a group of students. This is quite funny, because that’s still racism! In this case, administrators are simply making the determination that it is better for the university to admit certain racial classes than to admit the most qualified applicants. Needless to say, the moderator didn’t quite have a response, and the discussion wrapped up rather quickly after that.
That about does it for the Tunnel of Oppression. I’m sorry to say that this will be last commentary on this fine event. I’m sure that my wit and wisdom will be sorely missed, but alas, I must move on to bigger and better things, like chronic unemployment and a small mountain of student debt. But never fear, I hear a recovery is just around the corner.