Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks of “The danger of a single story” on TED talk. She is a writer that shares her personal experience about how believing a single story about another person’s culture or country can lead to misunderstandings and stereotypes that you’ll come to believe are true.
Growing up I had not realized that the language and tone my parents would use while speaking about other communities of people from different ethnicities and countries who were different from us, was racist. At a young age I didn’t understand what racism was. Thinking back, I don’t know how they ended up the way they did. The prejudice and the assumptions that came with the use of their language and tone now makes me very uncomfortable. It’s funny because our family are minorities too. My parents are probably used to facing racism daily. But they’ll speak of others as if they are the bad ones and that we should all stay away from. Those assumptions are all based from stereotypes. Things they’ve heard in our own community. That “single story” as Adichie would put it that gets reproduced until it becomes a common truth.
I think most people are guilty of this. The narratives that we create for all those who are different around us. It’s because we don’t know better. But often time we don’t realize this flaw, that what we do know is not the whole truth. That what we hear is often the incomplete truth. What I learned from Adichie’s speech is that there are many different layers and dimensions to a story that would make a whole difference if you would just keep an open mind that there is more to be discovered and to learn. “The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar” (Adichie).
Then there’s also a matter of who gets to create and reproduce these narratives. I think the whole point of racism is to keep people separated. What I think is that these narratives often stem from a superiority complex. It doesn’t always have to be from white people. You often see examples of it in neighborhood countries even within Asia. People who would share similar phenotypes but would still have something negative to say about the others. Which also tells me that racism isn’t always about skin tones. But most countries it seems like to think that they are superior to their neighbors and will come up with that “single story” in order to justify the hatred, the arrogance, or whatever political agenda they need from it.
In order to achieve a sense of equality amongst people I think we would have to first let go of that complex and the belief that we know it all. Because we most likely don’t. It’s not likely going to happen, but I think that so long that we can come to realize what is contributing to it, we might still have a chance to make a difference.
-- works cited --
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. The Danger of a Single Story. TEDGlobal 2009, 2009. https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.