Looking up and seeing malice

I’ve not had much to blog lately. Nothing pertaining directly to the crises in Ferguson or New York City, nor to the related demonstrations in many cities, including Washington. Nothing about Advent or liturgy—something justifiably seasonal—either, and neither lint-pulling nor crabbing seemed appropriate. There’s a time and place for everything, and I’d like to work through a couple of thoughts in the next couple of days.

One fact about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson stood out to me, but I’ve not seen anyone say anything about it. That both men were 6-foot-4. The short end of very tall. As, it happens, am I. (Later. And Eric Garner was 6-foot-3.)

Now, I know several people who are taller — two Unitarian Universalists come to mind — but I’m in the 98th percentile for height (or so). Tallness is a part of how I see myself, down to the fear of too-short pants, losing my head in family photos, a hatred of air travel (thus my preference for the rails) and a wary eye clearing the doors in historic houses.

It’s my experience that people project all kinds of attributes to me — mainly unfriendliness or least unapproachableness; scariness — and rather than fight it I use it sparingly when people trifle with me. (It also makes a good foil when people start up with their gay man projections.) You may even see this non-trifling attitude on the blog. Even so, I was left speechless when a man I know described, jokingly, another 6-4er and me as “monstrous.”

And these experiences should make me less wary of large men, but they don’t. I try to be aware of my surroundings in city settings, including anyone large enough to hurt me. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen some giant come towards me, only to see that he was my height or shorter. I never feel good about that.

Perception of harm is so subjective. Whether that’s in a life-threatening crisis, in personal relations or in the pursuit of public policy. And that’s something my scalp-scarred brethren don’t have a lock on.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

  1. Someone even jokingly described you and someone else as “monstrous?” Holy shite. That is extremely rude. This is another good contribution to the conversation about unconscious prejudice and fear of certain kinds of bodies. When you’re just standing around being you, you can look imposing due to your height. I’m sure there’s research out there about innate biological stress triggers when an imposing male figure is on the scene. Add some power and a gun and race to the mix and that’s potent.

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