Journey to a Shared Humanity touches on various -isms

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Journey to a Shared Humanity touches on various -isms

The event didn't allow photography, but this sign was outside Montezuma Hall

The event didn't allow photography, but this sign was outside Montezuma Hall

Juniper Perkins

The event didn't allow photography, but this sign was outside Montezuma Hall

Juniper Perkins

Juniper Perkins

The event didn't allow photography, but this sign was outside Montezuma Hall

by Juniper Perkins, Staff Writer

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“The Journey to a Shared Humanity” is a series of student performances designed to expose audiences to various forms of discrimination and oppression. It kicked off Monday, Nov. 18, celebrating its 20th anniversary with OneSDSU. 

Audience members walked silently through a dimly lit Montezuma Hall and watched several skits. Then they participated in group discussions about their experiences and how the program relates to reality. 

The first vignette dealt with antisemitism. One actor joked about stereotypes associated with Jewish people while the second defended herself and asked the other to stop. The moment ended with the second actor encouraging the audience to stop being bystanders and to do something if they see something. 

“Think before you say something,” international business sophomore and Academic Mentor Amy Nakayama said. “You never know when you’re hurting someone.”

One skit focused on islamophobia with a collage of discriminatory tweets and statements from random Twitter users, San Diego State students and the President of the U.S. Another showcased various forms of religious oppression and microaggressions targeting members of Sikhism, Hinduism, atheism and others. 

“#AfterSeptember11th I grew up without a mom because someone with a gun decided that she needed to answer for it with her life,” one tweet read. 

Another flipped homophobia around, taking stereotypes and remarks commonly used against same-gender couples to target straight people. Instead of bullying same-gender couples, the actors balked at seeing a straight couple kiss and disapproved of straight couples adopting children. 

Another skit featured a recording of people chanting “Make America great again!” between retellings of oppressive instances in U.S. history. Posters featured Native American displacement and genocide, Japanese internment camps, President Donald Trump’s denouncement of Latinx people and immigration and Black SDSU students’ experiences with racism on campus. 

“Was America ever great?” the recording asked. 

Other topics included sexism in STEM fields, financial insecurity, body image, ageism in education and transphobia against nonbinary people. 

“It leaves a huge impact on someone,” Nakayama said. “It’s the beginning of someone to start thinking about these issues. It touches on sensitive topics.” 

The experience ended with an actor demanding the audience to stand facing a wall while she turned off small lights and recited an altered version of the “First they came …” quote by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. She then asked the audience to turn around and noted there was only one light left. 

“One light, one life, my life,” she said, before turning it off. “When they came for me, there was no one else to speak up.”

After the journey, the group was escorted to a small room with chairs organized in a circle. Kurt Lindemann, faculty in residence and communications professor, along with Damaris Sanchez, second-year graduate student and professor, led a discussion to help the audience process their journey. 

“This particular time, as was the case two years ago, I actually participated in that video about ageism,” Lindemann said. “I learned, certainly, something about the various -isms that are addressed, but I think what was more fulfilling and enriching was witnessing the students learn about them. Many of the students already know about them or experience them.” 

Lindemann said he hopes others become more mindful about their own privileges, biases and prejudices. 

“I think it’s helpful just to witness the various things that you may not think about when you go through your daily life,” he said. 

“I definitely think this (Journey to a Shared Humanity) is a very empowering program, and I’m grateful that it has continued for so many years,” Sanchez said. “Unfortunately, we still have these -isms in our society, but I think it’s a great conversation starter for SDSU students.” 

Formally titled “The Tunnel of Oppression,” the program began in 1999 and is performed by San Diego State residence hall students and staff. The diversity program was originally founded in 1993 at Western Illinois University and was modeled after the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance. 

“I realize there’s a lot of micro-discrimination that I wasn’t aware of in everyday life,” Nakayama said. “For people in these groups, it leaves a huge impact on them. (The “journey”) made me want to pay more attention to that stuff.” 

Nakayama said this was her first time attending a “journey,” and she wishes she went last year. 

“SDSU is such a big campus and it’s so diverse,” Nakayama said. “People should appreciate that diversity.”

The annual event is free and groups of 25 are created on a first come, first served basis. The performances run every 20 minutes. 

The “Journey” is available Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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