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.