Somebodies and Nobodies: That's how author and professor Robert Fuller described "Rankism." Fuller suggested Rankism is what "Somebodies" do to those they perceive as "Nobodies."
While many may say Rankism is human nature, consider this: Not too many years ago, other "isms" existed and were widely accepted - racism, whites actively discriminated against non-whites; or sexism, males disadvantaging or limiting women. I don't think anyone would disagree we have made great progress in reducing discrimination and I doubt anyone would suggest returning to these openly egregious practices.
If Rankism can be named and acknowledged, presumably it can be illuminated or reduced. We broke the back of racism and sexism by telling the truth. At one time it was commonly held non-whites were inferior to whites in a variety of ways. Once proven invalid, this myth and many others died. Many believed women were the "weaker sex" and couldn't handle stress or make well reasoned critical judgments. These lies were also proven wrong. The purveyors of discrimination sought an advantage by devaluing others.
It will be more difficult to diminish Rankisim. Rankisim is rooted in issues like privilege by birth or inheritance. Rankisim is also driven by predation, a leftover from the days when man was the hunted and not the hunter. We do prey on animals; unfortunately, we also prey on each other to get an advantage over the next guy.
At its heart, Rankism's purpose is to "fix" the game so the "Somebodies" always win. These fixes are manifested in many ways; some are more subtle than others.
When Ivy League colleges provide "legacy" admissions, they are fixing the game in my opinion. Legacy admissions are based on having a father, mother or grandparent who previously attended the school. Many educational historians say the origins of legacy admissions were discriminatory in nature. It is believed Ivy League schools utilized legacy admissions to keep non-whites, Jews and poor people from gaining admission. While exact numbers are not available, one researcher found only about 40 percent of Ivy League admissions were open to competition based on educational merit.