“The reasons we’ve given to justify the familiar isms are bogus. They’re actually not reasons at all, they are excuses. They are excuses for putting people down and keeping them down so we can more safely exploit them in future. Or, so they will not compete with us. Or, simply to feel superior.” – Robert Fuller, Ph.D.
In an article from Psycholgy Today, Robert Fuller, Ph.D. made the point that putting others down, or “rankism” as he calls it, is a natural, instinctual, and predatory human activity. We do it as a means to oppress others for the innate desire to advance. Yesterday, I witnessed two such acts that made me wonder why we do what we do, hence today’s research.
If you know me, you know that height has never been a strong suit of mine. Genetically, superior height was never going to be in the cards for me. It’s something I’ve been ribbed about since kindergarten. I’ve certainly come to terms with it better as I’ve gotten older, which is more than I can say for my formative years. What’s interesting, though, is that even as an adult, I still catch grief for my size, a reality that I have no control over, and one that won’t be changing any time soon. As I was walking down the hallway past two shorter females yesterday, a passing co-worker said, “How does it feel to be tall for once?” The comment was made to serve two purposes (in my opinion): One, to make me feel inferior. Two, to make the commenter feel superior and appear to be superior in front of others.
Another instance: a new member of our freshman baseball team joined us this year, and his size very closely resembled mine as a 7th grader. He’s noticeably shorter than his classmates and teammates. The kid can play ball, but that’s not always what defines him, unfortunately. As we were finishing up practice last night, a student not involved in our program approached this young man, took the hat off his head, and held it high, out of reach. The young ballplayer was left jumping to grab his hat and pleading with the bigger kid to give it back. Having been the victim of this type of abuse before, a rush of bad memories came flooding back: embarrassment, anger, resentment, sadness.
While it may be in our DNA to bring others down for the benefit of our advancement, the profound effects of humiliating others has a lasting and powerful shelf life for the oppressed. Counter-arguments to this sentiment provide canned clichés for the humiliated; “Suck it up.” “Get thicker skin.” “I’m just kidding.” But, no real consideration is given to the individual and their plight.
What I propose is this: think before you speak and act. Understand that your words and actions affect others, and not always in a positive way. Imagine your son or daughter being given this negative treatment. We have a duty to care for and protect those around us, and that especially pertains to those who can’t necessarily fend for themselves. Instead of attempting to make ourselves feel better through the indignation of others, we should focus on bettering ourselves through the uplifting of our fellow man.
Yeah, we short guys can probably work on dealing with the comments and bullying. What would be better is not having to feel inferior at all, and that is true for all of us.
As Fuller mentioned in his article, “Dignity is our destiny. Why not embrace it?”
Have an awesome Wednesday,