“The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I was surfing through my brother’s laptop one late night when I came across a folder that contained a number of TED talk videos. “The danger of a single story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was one that particularly got my attention.
My first came across the works of Ngozi Adichie in secondary school. Back then I was in the commercial class and it was required that we take Literature as a subject. One of the books we were expected to complete by the end of the term was “The Purple Hibiscus”.
Although I eventually switched over to science class, I still went on to read “Half of a Yellow Sun” and “Americanah”.
It was only after I finished watching the video that I realized that the speech was made around 2009. The time frame in no way reduced the significance of the message in the speech as it is still relevant today.
In less than 20 minutes, she told a story that had a combination of humor, motivation and the need for more intentional efforts on our part to tell not just single stories but the whole stories as we see them.
There are many lessons that you and I can learn from the TED talk. Here is a link to the video in case you have not watched it yet.Here is a link to the video in case you have not watched it yet. Come back when you are done watching the video, I’ll be waiting.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM THE DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY
Single Stories create stereotypes
What is a stereotype? The English dictionary on my phone defines stereotype as an exaggerated conception or image of a person.
You create stereotypes about a person or group of people if you make a judgment about them based on what you heard without knowing them.
All black American are good at sport. Blondes are dumb. Ibo people like money. Career women pay their way to the top through sex. Africa is a single country.
These statements above are common examples of stereotypes that I am sure you are familiar with.
In the TED talk, Adichie mentioned how she already created an image of how Fide’s family would look like based on the stories her mother told her. She had already created a stereotype.
Just like it was not Ngozi’s fault that she thought of Fide’s family in a single way because of the stories she was fed with, we too are not always at fault.
We are constantly fed with single stories by the media, books and our parents too. These stories shape up in our minds and eventually become what we believe of a certain group of people.
“Show a people as one thing, as only one thing over and over again, and that is what they become… The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
The stories we tell matter
Stories today spread faster than ever before thanks to social media. It is important therefore that we all tell complete stories to the best of our abilities.
As creatives, bloggers, photographer, writers, content creators and visual storytellers we can do better at telling complete stories.
“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but the stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity”
How to avoid Stereotypes or Single Stories
Do not believe every that is said about a gender, race or culture.
Many times we are too lazy to find out the truth, so we believe and spread the stories that we have heard about certain people.
While some of the things said might be true, there are still a lot of conceptions that are untrue. Take your time out to sieve the truth from the lies. The dignity of people depends on you doing the right thing.
Consume good content. News, TV shows and other media outlets have a great influence on how we look at other people in our community and the world at large.
Avoid content that always promotes a certain stereotype, instead consume content that does a great job in breaking these gender and racial stereotypes. This is Us and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are examples of TV shows that break gender stereotypes.
Educate others. Talk to your family friends and friends about breaking stereotypes. Help them understand that it is wrong and distasteful.
Travel more. If it is within your means visit different places just to get a first hand taste of what people are like there.
Remember that stereotyping often causes people to live with fear or hate. How would you like to be responsible for that?
Did you watch the video? What other lessons did you learn???
How else do you think single stories have an effect on how we view others and the decisions we make?
PS: I am currently in Enugu state and the people here are not some money gobblers.