The “Game of Oppression”

NASPA is the largest association for student affairs practitioners in the world. I recently attended the NASPA Multicultural Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had a great experience at the institute. The presentations and discussions were very meaningful. I learned a lot about the work that is being done at schools all over the US.

One “educational tool” that was presented at the institute was the “Game of Oppression.” I was slightly curious about this “game” due to its title and the fact that it was being presented to us as an educational instrument for diversity work. A presentation of the “game” was held at the same time as another session that I attended, so I missed out on seeing the “game” in action.

The other day, I received an email from NASPA with a link to the “Game of Oppression.” Apparently NASPA is taking pre-orders for this thing. Here’s the description:

While college campuses are becoming increasingly diverse, many students still find it difficult to step outside of what is familiar and interact with students of different races, religions, classes, abilities or sexual orientations. Students may pass each other on campus and attend classes together, but few develop meaningful relationships with others from different backgrounds. The Game of Oppression is designed to encourage and challenge individuals from different backgrounds and experiences to engage in authentic dialogue.

Game of Oppression

The Game of Oppression is an innovative interactive training program designed specifically for use by student affairs professionals. The program equips diversity educators with strategies to encourage students to take full advantage of the diversity on their respective campuses and in their communities. The game provides a “safe space” for authentic dialogue around the issues of oppression.

I spoke with a colleague who attended the presentation about the “game.” She was appalled. My colleague is White and she said that this “game” does not create a “safe space” and that it is basically an exercise in tokenization. Further reading of the game’s description says that the game’s goal is to help participants “achieve enlightenment.” The game is somehow supposed to do this in 3 to 4 hours!

Who is supposed to be enlightened? Is this a game for dominant group participants?? Will it marginalize people of color, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, people who do not believe in religion, etc??? Is this another exercise in diversity being taught through the lens of dominant culture ideology????