Why the focus on underachievement based on race? I have always been uncomfortable with using discrimination as a tool to fight past discrimination. As any firefighter can tell you, the most effective way to fight fire is with fire. In the past, I’ve advocated doing away with race-based affirmative action and targeting real root causes of underachievement more closely linked to economic gaps rather than perpetuating race stereotypes. Of course that debate is too loaded to be resolved in a succinct blog post. Instead, I’d like to address a more demanding case of human prejudice that could be better addressed by affirmative action.
We all know about the pain felt at rejection, and as a society, we try to flatten the playing field as much as we can. Our country prides itself on allowing anyone the chance to succeed without innate attributes holding us back. Race is certainly one of the most obvious extrinsic qualities that we want to avoid judgments about. It’s not something that we choose, or we can change, therefore we find it disdainful to discriminate based on that trait. But as much as we say that racial discrimination is a learned trait that should/can be unlearned through methodically reshaping society, what about prejudice based on physical attractiveness? I’d say that hating ugly people is just as inherent a disposition that should be targeted and systematically eliminated.
But how can we target ugly-haters? Unlike the key attribute singled out in heightism, which can be measured objectively, isn’t physical attractiveness subjective? Beauty is a spectrum, a spectrum that has shifted and emphasized different attributes over human existence. Though there may have always been an attraction towards proportionality, there are certainly attributes that have been treasured in the past that no longer hold true. Breast size for instance, though we tend to think that large breasts have always been the norm, small breasts were actually preferred in the Middle Ages.
I don’t think it’s that debatable that at least some traits of attractiveness are heavily influenced by media and society. Is it any more unfair for a black applicant to be turned away than an unfortunate-looker based solely on the interviewers preferences?
People are drawn to pretty people. There’s no way around that. But why perpetuate this preference for beauty by putting beautiful people in places of power? Let’s elect a short President, hire that woman with the droopy eyes, date the bald guy. For every job, set aside interview slots for people you wouldn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. Start including photographs for college applicants and specifically choose the ones who couldn’t get a date with the opposite (or same) sex. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a color-blind society where people can still be celebrated for their cultural diversity? Frankly, I don’t think being ugly brings much culture, and I’m fine with phasing it out completely as a barrier to entry.