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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student


COLUMN: A tall order

Tim Wise’s lecture at the Indiana Memorial Union on Wednesday got me thinking about ways to discuss issues of racial inequality. I’ve been sitting on this great example of how privilege operates.

It’s especially good because it is materially observable and isn’t explicitly about race, which tends to be the main reason why (white) people can get uncomfortable when talking about ?privilege.

The people in my hometown, Zionsville, Ind., are taller than the average person. I moved to Zionsville in the eighth grade and went through high school thinking I was a short person. Then I lived in an all-male hall in Read during my freshman year.

One day, we were all packed in the hall during one of the biweekly false fire alarms. It was in this moment I noticed I was looking over a sea of heads. I was easily in the top half — if not the top 10 — of the tallest people on the floor.

A little dollop of research showed that the average American man — myself included — is 5 feet 9.5 inches.

After coming to terms with this dizzying paradigm shift, I started wondering what correlations could be linked to Zionsville and taller offspring.

I quickly decided it was the water; that is to say, rich people are drinking it.

Zionsville is easily one of the most affluent communities in Indiana. This leads to two major factors that would influence height.

The first is nurture. The financially comfortable parents in Zionsville are able to provide their children with better nutrition, which in turn helps those kids grow taller.

The second is nature.

Study after study has shown that physical appearance can directly affect employability and salary. In the same vein, taller people tend to be hired more often than shorter people, especially for high paying jobs. We culturally equate height with ?confidence.

Confidence is key; the key to looking more confident without trying is to be taller than your competitors.

If you aren’t buying this, just visit any major ?corporation.

I worked at Eli Lilly a few summers ago. When I drove into work in Indianapolis, it was as if I’d arrived in Scandinavia instead. I was 21, and every day I felt like it was Bring-Your-Toddler-to-Work Day. Incidentally, many a parent in Zionsville works at Eli Lilly.

So yes, people born with tall genes are going to be more likely to get good jobs, live in a good town with good schools and raise more tall, well-educated kids to continue the cycle. It’s like survival of the fittest, but instead it’s the success of the tallest.

What does this have to do with privilege? Some people from Zionsville genetically have an edge when it comes to securing a good future.

It isn’t their fault that they were born taller and therefore luckier. It also doesn’t change the fact that they live in a society that thinks so highly of tall people.

And if you’re thinking things like, “Well, black people are tall. Have you seen basketball players?” or “There are also times when short people have an advantage over tall people,” you should probably start this column over from the beginning.

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