So this afternoon, against my better judgement, I got drawn into an online discussion about racism. I added my two cents (bringing up the McWhorter Interview I mentioned in my blog here), and then also added my concerns about and frustrations with heightism.
As shown on this Web site, short folks are not only the butt of jokes in songs, movies, and general conversation, but are also systematically discriminated against at work (hired and also promoted less often than taller people), as well as in the social and dating spheres. Not just anecdotally (though I have plenty of personal experience in this area), but statistically and scientifically.
After my post, I was practically laughed and boo’ed out of the thread.
How dare you even equate being short with being black, folks shouted at me. You’re talking apples and oranges, they insisted. Were you ever a slave, were you ever property?
No, I responded. Were you? You, PERSONALLY? Didn’t think so.
One kind fella came to my aid.
So, the difference between the following two statements:
I was overlooked for a promotion because I’m black.
I was overlooked for a promotion because I’m short.
Is? The answer: The black guy has legal recourse, and won’t get told to “just shut up because he’s imagining it.”
As I noted repeatedly in the discussion I was having, I was neither attempting to minimize the impact of discrimination against minorities, such as blacks, nor even trying to argue that heightism is equal in scope or severity to such discrimination… particularly historically.
But at the same time, heightism IS nonetheless a frustrating and insidious covert form of discrimination… and a form for which, I fear, there are no solutions. I can’t see mandating hiring quotas for short people, or forcing women to date guys under 5’8″.
It’s one of those things that we short people just have to live with and adapt to.
It’d sure be nice, however, if our frustrations were at least acknowledged and not laughed off as mere insecurities or paranoia.
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Edited on November 7, 2009 to add this link to the strange-but-catchy Randy Newman piece: