Anucha & Me - Two Peas in the Discrimination Pod

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Anucha Browne Sanders, I know how you feel. I'm here for you. We can get through this together, you and me. As one who has experienced blatant discrimination every day of his adult life, I can guide you through this troubled time.

For those of you who do not know Mrs. Sanders, she is a former New York Knicks executive who was recently awarded $11.6 million for wrongful termination after being sexually harassed by Isiah Thomas, the team's head coach. While Anucha and I differ in many ways - black/white, female/male, over 40/under 40, non-Mormon/Mormon, KFC/Taco Bell - we have two things in common.

The first similarity is that we both strongly dislike Isaiah Thomas. Anucha has her reasons for the demeaning comments that he made to and about her in the workplace. My beef with Isaiah is that he was a dirty, whiny member of the Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys" of the late 1980's to early 1990's that battled my beloved Lakers in some epic NBA Finals series. I also dislike Isaiah for the ridiculous pre-game kisses on the cheek with Magic Johnson, my idol at the time, and the number of jokes heaped upon me because of it. The Knicks HR should have uncovered the Magic kissing fiasco in their pre-employment background checks and realized that Isaiah was a little to touchy-feely with his professional associates. They deserve the $11m penalty for ignoring the classic warning signs.

The second way in which Anucha and I are similar is that we are both victims of discrimination. How, you may ask, can a 33 year-old white guy with no physical disabilities who is happily married to a woman and never served in the military (in short, I'm a member of the "anti-protected class" class), claim discrimination? Well, here is my plight:

I'm tall.

At nearly 6'6" I would only be an averaged sized Shooting Guard in the NBA, but in the real world I tower over most people. Some people have used slurs like "freakish", "monstrous", "ginormous", "uge" (pronounced without the "H", thanks to Ubie Brown), "mutant boy", and the ever-so-hurtful "Shawn Bradley-esque" when referring to my stature. I can't help it. I was born this way. Well, I wasn't technically born 6'6", but you get the point. While I can only find very suspect stats on the web, the most credible site - heightsite.com - says that only .08% of the US population is taller than I am. This, my friends, puts me in the minority.

Most minority groups have legislation imposed to prevent discrimination against them due to their minority status. They also have very vocal, deep-pocketed coalitions/associations to support them and champion their cause. Even in our overly politically correct society, there is still no support for the tall minority. Where is the anti-height defamation league? Why hasn't anybody ever formed the National Association for the Advancement of Tall People (NAATP)? Why is the closest person to a Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton that tall people have ever had is Wilt Chamberlain when he said, "Nobody roots for Goliath?". It's not quite, "I Have A Dream", but it's all we tall people have. Maybe I'll start the GOLIATH! Foundation - Gentlemen Of Length In America Take Heart! - to look out for my freakishly huge brothers. (Sorry, no girls allowed. We will be a discriminatory anit-discrimination club).

When it comes to age, race, gender, disabilities, national origin, etc., most people walk on eggshells so that they do not do or say anything offensive. But when it comes to height, any comment is fair game. Unless you think Jeff Foxworthy is funny, you would never dare walk up to an Asian, for example, and say, "Have you always been so Asian? It's like you get more Asian every time I see you! What are you eating to become so Asian?". (Admit it! You even cringed a little bit just reading that sentence! Ha! Proved my point.) But when it comes to picking on my height minority status, there is no such political correctness. Two days ago at Stake Conference I had a husband and wife couple who had not seen me for several months walk right up and say, "It's like you get taller every time we see you!". This morning while at a funeral I had a member of our Stake say, "I swear you're still growing like a weed!".

Just to illustrate the point of how easy it is to single out the tall guy, I want you to play a game called, "Spot the Freak on the Back Row". Below is a picture of my MBA class from 2003. Please click on the picture to enlarge it and then take 3 seconds to quickly look at all of the people on the back row and spot the person who does not look like everybody else.


Okay, if your eyes went immediately to the guy (me) in the center who is about a foot taller than everybody else - shame on you for thinking I'm the freak! The guy third from the left (my buddy Mason) has a third eye in the middle of his forehead. The guy third from the right (my buddy Nate) does not have a mouth. I think both of those conditions are a little more abnormal than towering over everybody else. (In case you are wondering, both Mason and Nate have successfully had surgery to correct their physical deformities. They are both doing well, though Mason occasionally walks into walls as he gets used to not having superhuman vision anymore.)

Aside from the jokes and comments, here are some of the other ways in which society still discriminates against those of us of height:

-Door Frames. Believe it or not, but I still hit my head on some door frames if I don't duck. I've hit my head so many times now that I'm afraid my....brain...thingy....might....damaged....get........
-Handicap Accessible Water Fountains. The second floor water fountain at work was designed to be wheelchair accessible. If you have every watched a giraffe drink from a pool of water on Discover, you now know how I look when I take a drink at work.
-Airplane Seats. Try flying to El Salvador in coach when your legs are so long that you can only prop one leg underneath the seat in front of you while the other rests in the aisle.
-Bathroom Mirrors. Try combing your hair when the mirror is hung so low that you can only see up to your chest without bending over.
-In-Store Displays. The weekly special poster hanging at the grocery store is hung at a height to attract the eye of a 5'6" female shopper. This puts the sharp corners right at the perfect height to poke a 6'6" shopper right in the eye.
-Cruise Ships and Submarines. Anything that floats and has a roof was designed for the luxury and comfort of leprechauns. It really hampers my love of submarining to have to constantly duck. Check out the picture below of what I was up against every time I walked down a hall on our Carnival cruise ship:



I was originally going to ask for your sympathy and for you to stop picking on us poor, defenseless tall people. But after reading over my list above, it made me think that I can champion the cause on my own the good old fashioned American way - I can sue somebody! Maybe, just maybe, the next time I go to Wal-Mart one of those hanging displays might "accidentally" scratch my cornea. There may be an $11 million jury award in there somewhere. Hey, it worked for Anucha.

13 comments

Sandy said...

Oh my gosh, I am dying laughing here - this might be my favorite post of yours ever. Even if you won't let me in your club, cause I'm a girl...I'm 6'2" and my husband is 6'6". My whole family is tall - my "shrimpy" sister is 5'8". So not only do we all sympathize, but we would join you in your lawsuit.

And I think girls have it WAY worse than boys - especially those who chose the babysitting/band geek path instead of athletics (since I was dealt the unfair blow of being uber-tall, asthmatic, having bad knees and needing glasses ALL AT ONCE). For one thing, even when you're 30 pounds underweight for your height, you will still weigh more and where bigger clothing sizes than your normal-sized counterparts. These "normal" friends love to talk about how HUGE you are, even when you could snap your own ankles like matchsticks. As a 14 year old girl, this logic makes no sense. You also can't borrow anyone's shoes or buy jeans off the rack - in the girl section anyway.

Then there is the problem of having to wait until college to meet guys that are taller than you, no matter what shoes they're wearing...and weeding through the short guys who want to date you so they can stare at your boobs the whole time.

When I was a teacher, do you know how many times I had kids come up to me and say, "Wow, you're taller than my Dad" and how hard it was for me to say, "Yeah, because your dad is a wimp?" or people on the street that come up and say, "You're tall" like they've just discovered gold. Lately I've gotten braver and get this startled look on my face and say, "Really??? All this time! I never knew!"

My all-time most embaressing moment, though, even worse than junior high and high school comments, even worse than how Jake and I can't ride in all the rides together at Lagoon because we exceed the weight limit, even worse than being forced to do those stupid "mystery dance" things at stake dances and finding out that your mystery guy is 5'4"... was when Jake and I were first married. We were in this little tiny restaurant with my mom and this not-elderly-enough-that-it-would-have-been-cute woman points at me and says loudly to the guy with her, "She's a giantess". Wow. Sorry, I should deserve to be in your club for THAT one!

The good news is that I married a super tall football player, who makes me feel smallish and ladylike. We make fun of tall guys who marry super short girls (like my brother in law, whose wife is 15 inches shorter than him), can utilize the tallest cupboards and shelves in our house, don't need a ladder to paint tall walls, can always find each other in a crowd...and are sitting back waiting for one of our freakishly tall children to make it big in sports and give us the good life:)

And by the way, have your read all the research lately about how the human race will eventually turn into two races: the gnome-like slaves and the ultra-tall, beautiful geniuses? We're just ahead of evolution:)

8:37 AM
Sandy said...

Sorry that was so long...its a burning subject for me:)

8:37 AM
andrea said...

Andrew--thank you for SEVERAL belly laughs this afternoon. You are the best and let me know how that lawsuit works out. I think I can find some way to spend $11 mill.

10:22 AM

I feel your pain, but from the other end of the spectrum. I too cannot sit comfortably on airplanes because the chairs (and actually, these pertain to most chairs, especially the ones in movies theaters and classrooms) are too high for my feet to rest on the floor, meaning they dangle, which has caused me to have knee problems that I would never have had if my feet rested on the floor. I also cannot reach the pedals in any car that doesn't have the extra feature of being able to move the seat in ways other than forward (I have had to use a pillow in some of my cars). And it gets quite old to have to pull my little step stool out just to reach the cord on the ceiling fan. And before we remodeled our bathroom, I couldn't see myself in our bathroom mirror AT ALL. I can only wear kids shoes which isn't a big deal when it comes to tennis shoes, but they don't make sexy heels for kids, so to wear heels I have to stuff the toes (now you know my secret) and I wear a size zero, which would ordinarily mean that I would always be able to find a pair of jeans, but everyone wishes they were a zero so buy the size zero and squeeze into it to make themselves feel better, when in reality they would look and feel better wearing their own size. But, I must admit it is easier to take in clothes than to take them out. And, at church I can sit in the sunbeam chairs and be perfectly comfortable (so now you know why I choose to sit in them instead of the adult chairs). And to be honest, we should make an organization to protest the one size fits all description- that is the real enemy. Oh, and on a side note, in your graduation picture it was a bad photographer that makes you stand out- the two people standing a step below you are standing in a such a way that you are between them, so the photographer should have had you stand on the same step they were standing on so you'd be the same height as the back row. Or, they should have put you to the side and had you stand a step lower. Honestly, what were they thinking?

10:54 AM
jeff said...

Andrew,

It is nice to see that the Eller Graduate School of Management accepts and graduates those with disabilities - including the girl that couldn't read the "please wear something black for the picture that will forever be placed in the halls of this fine institution" memo.

a couple more instances of height discrimination:
- rental car seats slid all the way forward when you go to get into them.
- regional jets where you have to crawl down the aisle to get to your seat.

It was kind of fun on the mission though to knock on doors with my 6'10" companion. Most people would be visibly startled to see a 6'5 and 6'10 pair of guys standing there in dark suits.

Great post.

4:59 AM
Natalie said...

This post was hilarious! When you are ready to sue someone. I suggest you call David.

5:04 AM

I never knew how rough you had it!... I'm so sorry for you, you "person with abnormal bone structure." Is that P.C. enough?
-Nicolle

4:29 PM
Ang said...

What most people don't know is that you actually mutated near the end of your Junior High career. Before then, you were kinda runtish, to be brutally honest. Then our father prayed you tall. I honestly think he did. Prayer can be a powerful thing and I think that all Dad's good praying mojo went straight to your pituitary gland and, voila, you ended up ginormous. He only had a little bit of mojo left to use on Tony and therefore Tony ended up tall-but-not-freakishly-so . What is he, 6'3"? Does he say he's 6'4" but he's really 6'3"? You can't cry too much about your height though, really. As a man, it lends you instant credibility and even a little bit of awe-induced fear and respect, plus you can dunk like a monster. So no crying!! Now, we could talk about the good ol' Sweat double chin if we want to start lamenting our genetic crosses to bear, but now is not the time. No, it would bring all of us down.

Hope you're doing well and that your back is okay!!

9:03 PM
Amy said...

We could've used you when we were trying to decorate our 12 foot tree. We only have a 6 foot ladder and I was getting pretty nervous about 5'9 Dave balancing precariously on the top rung as I held it and read "do not stand on top of ladder". Can you believe you're a whole foot taller than me and we came from the same genes?

1:06 PM
jbn said...

No more whining. My son is in high school and is 6'7" and loving it. It got him a spot on the varsity basketball team, and now he's going to play volleyball, just because he's tall. He grew 5 inches in one year. He is treated with respect and loves the attention that comes with being so tall. I think it's great!!

9:58 PM

I'd like to join the suit, but I'm only 6'4". So I can live a semblance of a normal life because I can still buy clothes off the rack.

My brother's 6'8", though. That dude's a freak!

12:25 PM
Bryon said...

That is pretty funny. I was actually thinking about this the other day. How most things are off for me since I'm a little taller and isn't there some discrimination going on that would need to make some percentage for taller people. What made me think about it was last week I was sitting at a stop light (at proper stopping distance/line placement, etc.) and I couldn't see the light because of a combination of multiple things (car, light, etc) then I started realizing how often I have to lean over to even see what color the light was. So I say, go GOLIATH! I don't know what the height requirement will be, but I'm 6'5" and have the nickname "Sasq" short for you guessed it...sasquatch.

7:51 AM
Jolly Green Giant said...

I'll be a memeber of GOLIATH. I'm 6'6 1/2" and I hear you brotha. I served my mission in Venezuala and I can't tell you how many times I hit my head. Also, airplanes are a joke. They should have to save the exit rows for people over a certain height. I also hate the fact that 34" inseam pants just barely don't fit so I have to either look really hard for 36" inseam pants or get them tailored.
Of course there are a lot of advantages but I won't go into those since I don't want to lose people's pity.

It is funny though when I see another person that is tall and I say to my wife "man, that guy is tall". She usually says, "he is just about your height". It is funny because I don't really consider myself tall so I have a hard time seeing me as other people do.

11:41 AM