For those of a certain age, the Guinness Book of World Records is a tome of endless nostalgia. Kids used to rush into the school library to get their hands on the book, a volume filled to the brim with all of the oddities and exceptions that make the world amazing. Who could ever forget the guy with the curly fingernails? Or the enormous twins sitting atop their matching motorcycles?
With the advent of the internet, today’s kids probably aren’t as impressed by the Guinness Book as we were. But if they want some light reading, maybe they’ll turn to The Umbrella of Oppression, instead. It’s a guide created by Northeastern University meant to help their RAs understand how everyone in America is under the thumb of oppression…except, of course, white men.
“In order to have the experience of being oppressed one must belong to an oppressed category,” the guide says. “Men cannot be oppressed as men, just as whites cannot be oppressed as whites.”
Ah. Well, hold on. What would it take for a white man to be oppressed?
“For a male to experience oppression, they would also need to be a person of color, gay, disabled, or in a lower social class. They cannot be simply because they are male,” the guide helpfully explains.
But if you really want to understand the umbrella of oppression, you have to move beyond the text. And it is here that the guide really comes into its own, giving us a handy graphic with which we can determine exactly where everyone fits.
The visual guide is great, but maybe there should be a song to go along with it. You could use the music and structure of the old “legbone connected to the hip bone” song. The white man oppresses the white woman, the white woman oppresses the black man, the black man…etc.
Northeastern’s guide is nothing new; third-wave feminists have made the same case for years. You can’t be racist if you’re black. You can’t be sexist if you’re a female. You can’t be oppressed if you’re “privileged.” They’ve reclassified the word “racism” to mean prejudice + power. But don’t get the wrong idea about the word “power,” because it only refers to your inherent natural traits, not your station in life. A homeless white man has “power” over Barack Obama simply because he is white. Yes, it’s that ridiculous.
When you see all this happening, it only increases your nostalgia for that simpler time when the Guinness Book was all the rage. Here was a book that showed kids that there were no limits. Records were smashed every year. New records were added as human beings found new ways to expand intellectual and physical potential. What could be more inspiring? Tomorrow’s kids will learn the opposite. They will learn that they can accomplish nothing if they were unlucky enough to be born the wrong gender or color. And if they were born white and male, they should spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty about their advantage.
Progress! Ain’t it grand?