“You’re Articulate For Someone Who Stutters”
Do you want me to say thank you?
The, you sound so articulate, normally had an invisible second half that ended with, for someone who’s black, but ever since I started to disclose my stutter in job settings such as interviews, I’ve been getting this response more often.
And this irks me.
I had my first day of work today at a food and beverage place. I have had such deep anxiety getting a customer service role since the mask mandate because I genuinely was not sure if I could be a person who stutters who has to talk loud and fast and through rushes with a mask on. It still scares me. So before we made ourselves too comfortable and the situation would come where they couldn't figure out what I was trying to say, I disclosed to two members of the team that I stutter.
Initially, the lead, said that it was fine, that he hadn’t heard it (typical response), to which I responded with you haven’t heard it yet.
I stuttered of course eventually trying to call out someone's name.
When we sat down for a performance review of the day, and he mentioned that I did a good job today.
Then he said, “with the speech impediment I think you did well. You are very articulate and were heard well despite the impediment. You are able to navigate it well.”
It was a bunch of jargon that I ended up not listening to once he said that I sounded very articulate.
Here’s the thing:
I cannot stutter articulately. With my stutter, even if I were to slow down syllable by syllable, it is not articulate, it is just choppy, and most people are not going to figure it out, especially with a mask on.
If my stutter is not articulate what he actually means is:
“You’re pretty fluent and talk well for a person who stutters. I’m sure you can get through this challenge”
It’s similar in my opinion to someone who might say, “You’re pretty for a black girl.” This, because, white is the default and despite the so-called gorilla faces we hold, mine is the exception and that is something to be proud of!
His statement felt like a microaggression.
His statement felt like you are dismissing or even making a backhanded compliment about my speech.
Because by saying that I sound articulate, it makes me feel as though I wouldn’t have the capability to speak at all.
Some people are severe stutterers to where roles like this could be a nightmare. I’ve been in positions before where I felt oh boy I don’t know if I’m fluent enough for this.
But because mine is not severe, you’re basically fluent! It is okay! You are fine! You are one of us!
I am not fluent.
Nor will I ever claim to be.
I say what I want to say.
I will stutter and I will not stutter.
But I am not you.
So if you think you are making me feel better by erasing my identity, you are wrong.
Because you are only accepting my fluency.
But you can’t have one without the other.
So, as I was saying,
“Order for “A-A-A-lllllizzza?”