Articles and College · public speaking · Stuttering Group Meetings

Stereotyping and Prejudice


Stereotypes Revised – Theoretical Models, Taxonomy and the Role of Stereotypes
Photo Credit: Europe’s Journal of Psychology

I have seen the dangers of prejudice, and consequently their effects. Before college I was the target of severe bullying and in some cases coerced into doing things I felt uncomfortable with. It began in grade school where being one of the few kids that stuttered awarded me the nicknames of: Freak, weirdo, moron, and it. Though I had several friends who would stand up for me when I myself couldn’t find the courage to do so, the harassment never seemed to stop. Over time I began to accept it as just a fact of life, that people who stutter are just doomed and shouldn’t be given a chance to shine, only to remain in the shadows. Before long I found myself secluding even further into my shell, even snapping at my friends whenever they asked if I wanted to play a game or just talk to me. Every day when I would go to the bathroom I would recite passages of a book over and over again, which only resulted in me becoming more frustrated and eventually crying in a stall that I was too “stupid” to speak fluently. My parents seeing their son in this destitute state sent me to a school speech therapist, where we practiced pronouncing words that I routinely struggled on. Whenever the therapist would ask me about my day I would just smile and reply, “Oh, my day going great!” knowing full well it was not. Finally reaching the end of my elementary career I couldn’t be more relieved to leave that school and quickly get on with my life. Middle school became more of an obstacle than I realized.

Considering middle school is only two years long, it felt like an eternity. Most of my friends were at different schools so I had to start over from scratch, only I couldn’t find any group or click of kids that would accept me as one of their own. Whenever I introduced myself I would make myself so nervous that my face would become as red as a cherry, unable to even get out my first name. Seeing all of the glares and open mouths told me early on that this wasn’t going to work out at all, so I again found myself amongst others like me who didn’t seem to fit in amongst any group, unfortunately we were all too afraid to form our own group together.

Arriving at high school gave me a glimmer of hope, several of my old friends I saw in class or on the same walk from school, made me feel better. I quickly got back in the grove of things finding all of my friends again, while including their friends in our close circle of pals. Several of the “new comers” didn’t really like how I spoke and became frustrated when I told jokes taking at least two minutes to deliver the punchline, despite my original friends continuing to be supportive of me. What appeared to be four years of hope and new beginnings quickly turned into a nightmare, without notice a lot of my friends began to fight amongst each other with myself in the crosshairs for choosing sides. Some of my friends began to take drugs, some became infatuated with girls, and others disregarded school altogether and stayed home. Reluctantly I choose my friends who were infatuated with girls, since I didn’t want to drop out of school or be involved with drugs. There I was in relationships with girls who never really took the time to get to know me, showing me time and time again all they wanted was sex to which I continued to reply, “No, that’s not how I was raised”. A few years went by and my now even smaller group of friends started to try to convince me to delve even deeper against my morals. Growing up a sheltered life gave me the feeling that I should always obey my parents, and that they are always watching. So when a group of my friends decided after a hockey game we should go see an R-rated movie, I wasn’t on the boat at first. After they continued to hound me as we were walking back to their cars, I finally gave in and went along with them. We didn’t get too far though as me and one of my friends didn’t have a driver’s license. After the person who checked my friends tickets who had a license came to us, I found myself fumbling for an excuse, while I could feel the man’s gaze on me like a hawk. To this day I don’t know if it was by shear dumb luck, or divine intervention but a stranger pulled the ticket viewer aside and talked with him saying we were with him and that he has us covered. My face was as white as a ghost as the ticket checker motioned us to meet with our other friends who were staring blankly at us. Satisfied we weren’t going to be checked again we entered the movie, where the stranger whispered to my friend and I, “Don’t worry guys I have you covered”. I didn’t even pay attention to the movie, I was completely zoned out. Embarrassed and ashamed of my actions I slipped up what we did to my parents when I got home and they were furious, they figured it was time for a lecture on why you should never follow others blindly, which to be honest was more of a appropriate punishment.

In my junior year of high school my mom spoke with my speech therapist, and wasn’t sure what else she could do to boost my confidence. When I got home my mom looked online and found a group called the NSA or National Stuttering Association and that they have stuttering support groups for adults and youth nationwide. She then came across various groups on the site and found there was one in our state. After contacting the person in charge of the closest group, she replied with the directions to the meeting place as well as the days and times they met. My first meeting was earth shattering. I sat with three other people who didn’t appear at all to have a stutter just by outside appearance alone. Our ice breaker exercise was introducing ourselves and saying how we found out about this group. Around the circle we all looked at each other apprehensively until I decided to start, when I encountered my first block word, the people around me waited patiently to hear the rest of my story. The others told their stories, to which I was astounded to find that they too stuttered on certain words or phrases. After leaving the meeting I was determined to come to the upcoming ones.

Several months went by into my senior year of high school where we discussed about our stresses, insecurities, and thoughts on our last year of high school. Talking in this group was like being on a different planet; I even convinced one of my friends who stuttered to start attending as well. Our meetings after our graduation weren’t as frequent as they were in the past, though they still felt like having a natural conversation among lifelong friends. As our meetings drew to a close I left with the realization that there are groups that support people who stutter, and more importantly gives them new confidence in themselves, to tackle the world outside the meeting room.

The first day of college felt to me like a new story, a new chapter in my life. Having no friends to rely on made my first two college years albeit lonely, though the people I got to interact with in my classes were friendly and weren’t bothered when I stuttered. To see them patiently waiting until I finished what I was going to say, filled me with relief and joy. Taking a public speaking class last year helped me gain the courage to battle my fear of stuttering, and even though it will be an ongoing battle, I will never forget the moment where at my final speech with tears rolling down my eyes as I finished everyone was crying and gave me a standing ovation. I can happily say I now have more confidence in myself and am no longer terrified of sharing my opinion with others.

My experiences with college and the stuttering support group meetings, even helped spawn the birth of a support blog that me and a couple of my close friends started to help those who stutter, where we talk about how we interact with a world that’s still a tough place for those who stutter. Over the three years we’ve been in the blogging world, it’s come to my attention through emails and messages that our blog is already making a big difference and is making people think more about stuttering in general. This journey that started out very difficult has turned into something that will surely benefit not only me, but generations of those who feel lost and isolated due to their speech impediment. To know I’ve come this far from a troubled start says a lot about me. I know there will always be people who will judge me for my stuttering, which only encourages me more to not be so afraid, merely to speak my mind and say what I have to say despite their prejudice assumptions.

– James

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Stereotyping and Prejudice

  1. My father was a stutterer. In his time, ANY deviation from the norm was considered as either stupid or insane. It turns out, like so many folks with quirks (I’m dyslexic), that he was a brilliant man with an I.Q. higher than Einstein’s but social beliefs and perceptions caused him to keep that inside and believe he was stupid. I, too, was bullied growing up because of my own physical quirks. I grew up believing that I was stupid, clumsy (that part is true ~ thanks mom!) and ugly. I now realize that is all wrong (except the clumsy part). I’m not GORGEOUS by media’s classic sense. Physically, I’m unique and oddly exotic but I know that I’m not stupid. In fact, I have trouble shutting my mind off, there is so much going on in there. Unfortunately, bullying has been a part of society since its inception. Technology has made it even easier for bullies to haunt others. The stand has to be made with those being bullied, to rise up and stand up for themselves. Obviously, society, as a whole, has not figured out how to cull that problem down. You are here, now, so you’ve survived that mess. Wear the scars as a badge of survival and having taken the high road. I’m proud that you wrote about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for sharing about your father he sounds like a great man! Also who doesn’t have quirks, I have ADD but my friends know I like to babble like a historian when they start bringing up Robert E Lee. Sorry just about nerded out on ya! It’s true though often the smart people are those with quirks or things that society seems is weird. Technology has sadly made harrassment and bullying easier, especially since people can torment while being anonymous. You are correct, I am here, and I strongly believe that God made me have a stutter for a reason. Honestly I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. I have known lots of heartbreak in my life, athough even though my experiences are bad they’re helping others grow the strength to share their stories. I was recently talking with someone over email about her post on her stuttering, and after seeing my uplifiting comment to her after a bad day, she replied that I brought a smile to her face and really made a difference. It’s moments like that that are simply beautiful. 🙂

      – James

      Like

      1. He was and you are, too. My brother went diagnosed with ADD until late into his adult years. The end result for him? He didn’t finish high school, he ran with many bad crowds, got mixed up with drugs and now he’s a total mess trying to survive. His first born has ADD but they found it early. She fares a lot better. I love to write BECAUSE of dyslexia. It has become a game to write as correctly as possible but I also explore the use of eubonics, slang and compressed words as a form of humorous writing. Here’s the stink of it: the stupid ones are really the lazy ones. The definition of stupid is knowing better but still doing what shouldn’t be done. More often than not, I see the ‘average’ person come across stupid more often than the quirky and my theory on that is they never had to work hard to kind fit in to the ‘norm,’ are lazy about and take their ‘normal-ness’ forgranted. Speed readers often miss subtle, hidden messages in a written piece. My husband misses all kinds of things because he ‘scan reads’ everything. I’m forced to really read things phonetically. I’m good at it and it’s taken all my life to do that but I see all the messages in a written piece. Dyslexia has forced me to slow down and really pay attention to life and all that is around me. So, does other terrible experiences but just like my little post titled “Scars,” they don’t define me. They just remind me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come from that. Did you know that Jim Nabors is a stutterer? He used to sing beautifully at the Indianapolis 500 races. Many singers are actually stutterers. I’ll bet you also saw “The King’s Speech,” didn’t you? That was a great movie. We are the spices of life that makes the mudaness of living a little more interesting. That’s how I choose to see it. When someone comments “you’re weird,” I always respond, “Yes, I am. Isn’t that FUN?”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly! Apologies for the late reply I wasn’t notified of this comment till now. I’ll look into your “Scars” post that sounds very powerful and emotional. Yes, I have seen “The King’s Speech” many times always crying at the end. I’ve never been good at singing, I tried my hand at opera a few years back but to be honest it just sounded like nails on a chalboard. I grew up on books, since I had only a select group of friends I could rely upon in high school, I still find myself breaking free of the social world with tea and book in hand, enveloping myself in a world of comedy and albeit relaxation. Thats very true though that society tries to confomr all of us to be “normal” though there will always be those who will say “You know I like fandoms, I go to Comic-Con, and I run around like my favorite anime character. Screw normality”. If relationships have taught me anything is that once someone begins to control you then you’ll slowly lose yourself. Who you are as a individual is priceless, being unique allows experiences to be shared and new ideas to flourish. Personally now I’m just focusing on myself, school, and getting closer to God as he helped me break free of my controller.

          – James

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Right on! That’s the only way to be. That’s why the tagline on my blog site. It IS all relative and ya gotta be real! I’m in retired life now. I have latitude to either seclusive or to get out there! There is a bit of duality within, so I just let my little voices advise what to do. Currently getting caught up on publishing a whole bunch of images. God speed to you!

            Liked by 1 person

What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s