Human stupidity (he sends me a lot of stuff) sent me an interesting article about discrimination against short men. Though I’m of average height myself, this is a subject that has always been close to my heart. The article, by Jonathan Rauch, can be found here. I recommend the entire article, but here are some highlights:
Mr Miller favours protections for such little people. But he opposes extending protections to the “normally” short–men like America’s labour secretary, Robert Reich, who is 4’10″ and hears no end of it. (Bill Clinton, looking at a model of the White House made from Lego, commented: “Secretary Reich could almost live in there.”) Why protect Mr Miller but not Mr Reich? Because, Mr Miller says, one cannot protect everybody. “It would be totally unwieldy to let everybody in.” Quite true. But convenient, too, to draw the line so as to include him but exclude a raft of other claimants. Convenience is not a principled reason for leaving short men to suffer their fates.
Indeed, it is hard to find any principled reason. Most of the obvious excuses for excluding SHRIMPs from the list of disadvantaged groups do little but show how arbitrary is the concept of any “group”. For example, one might argue that there is no obvious line that demarcates a man short enough to be a SHRIMP. True enough; but in a world where blood mixes freely, there is equally no clear way to distinguish, for instance, a “Hispanic” from an “Anglo”, or an American Indian from a “white” man.
Perhaps a “minority group”, then, must be an ethnic or hereditary grouping? Plainly not. If women, homosexuals and people in wheelchairs may be minority groups, then surely short men can qualify. American Hispanics have nothing in common except the “Hispanic” label itself (they are mostly identified solely by their names). At least SHRIMPs are all detectably short.
In the West, the past quarter-century has been an era of awakening group consciousness. Blacks and women, Asians and indigenous peoples, homosexuals and the disabled–one by one, all have come to embrace group-based identities and protections. The obese are now reaching for group status; and, in truth, they too have a case. So why not short men? Logically, there seems no way out…
Knowing that short young men earn less money than other young men is, certainly, interesting. Knowing that only 9% of American Hispanics, as against 24% of non-Hispanics, hold a university degree is also interesting. But what do such facts imply? One does well to remember that they are mere statistical compilations, averages that blur together individuals who have virtually nothing in common. A “Hispanic”, for instance, is a mere Spanish-sounding name masquerading as a human being. A SHRIMP, similarly, is no more than a mark on a tape measure. To convert adjectives into nouns–as in “a SHRIMP”, or “a black” or “an Asian” or “a homosexual”–is to seize upon a single element of a person’s make-up and cast into the background everything else. This kind of thinking may be useful as a tool of social analysis; as a basis for public policy, however, it is treacherous.
But the Left, acting through government, the educational system, the media and business, has forced everybody else to pigeonhole members of “protected groups” into just such categories. If an individual accomplishes something noteworthy, and he happens to be black, we are never allowed to overlook this fact. It is pounded into our heads in every conceivable way. Unless one lives in a cave, he comes to view the individual as “the first black man to…” The same is true of Hispanics and, to a lesser extent, women.
Rauch doesn’t go into it, but heightism has racial implications within a multiracial society as well. If tall men are favored, and black men tend to be taller, then it follows that black men will be favored. If Asian men are shorter, then it follows that Asian men will be disadvantaged. Since there is a rough inverse correlation between height and I.Q. (racially), Asian men can somewhat make up for their disadvantage. Nevertheless, the most unfortunate of all are short, not-so-intelligent Asian men. The most fortunate of all are tall, intelligent black men.
I am against set-asides and “affirmative action” of any kind. But if such programs are to exist, I can think of few better candidates than short men.