Abdul Aziz Sohail ’13 (“Aziz”) is a first-year Wien International Scholar from Pakistan who will be contributing regular posts to the Global Brandeis Blog. He’ll be bringing classroom discussions and student dialogues on diversity and religion to life, including global affairs events at New England colleges and universities.
I am a Pakistani. My grandparents migrated from India in 1947. They speak an endangered language.
To Brandeis, to the world — I am diverse. I am diverse not only because I am from Pakistan, but because like every other college student my family is a little bit different, my home is a little bit different and due to different experiences every part of my life is just slightly different than someone else’s.
Diversity — a beautiful quality existing in our world today — is, however, one of the least difficult to accept. It has to led to terrible incidents in human history — from neighborhood and police crimes to suppression of minorities and racial or religious genocides.
We know this sad fact, see it playing out in front of your eyes everyday. However it took one Brandeis Orientation event — “The Tunnel of Oppression” — for it to hit home….
The Tunnel of Oppression was an event designed by the Brandeis Orientation Core Committee highlighting the various aspects of hate speech existing in the US and the world. It consisted of a room spread with charts, signs, logos and slogans highlighting not only racism but various forms of inequality present against the elderly, disabled, women, homosexuals. This was followed by an audio presentation, a poignant video and various skits highlighting issues which come up in college campuses.
It highlighted that every kind of group had been targeted in history, not only African-Americans and homosexuals, but immigrants, Muslims and some social groups such as athletes and models.
Hurtful, stereotyped phrases were targeted at each of them.
How often have we seen such phrases used in movies, in protests and here is the most heartbreaking reality — by our friends and families or ourselves.
To be honest, at least once in our lives. Usually more.
Needless to say the experience was personal. I could relate to so much of the hate-filled slogans or phrases. The ironic fact is that groups which I never realized could be prone to “oppression” such as athletes were included, too. Think “All Jocks are dumb.”
It was a time for personal contemplation and sadness.
But it was also a time of reflection and optimism because for every bad there is good. The last segment of the tunnel was walking through covered with slogans of love, peace and acceptance. To counter those who had destroyed the world with their hate-filled minds you could now see those great personalities who had tried or were trying to change the world for the better — people like Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama.
And before you left the tunnel, large posters were hanging for you to write on. You were instructed to write, “Something I NEVER want to hear again.”
Events like this really make you think. Not only think, but also to want to change the world.
Yes WE Can.