Sunday, January 26, 2014

TED Talk: The Danger of A Single Story By Chimamanda Adichie

This TEDTalk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie has surfaced three times since I started school. The first time I came across it was while doing research, the second time it was shared by the administrators at my internship and the third it was shown in my Multicultural Counseling class. That it's surfaced three times in as many years is a sign that I should share it with you, too.

Single Stories Are Stereotypes

The Danger of a Single Story makes a case for why it's so important for us to not accept one version of a story as the entire story, because in so doing, we reinforce stereotypes and disempower people. Grab a piece of paper and something to write with. Now, write the first things that come to mind when you read the following words: blue collar, white collar, immigrant, urban, Mexican or Latina, basketball player and gay. Chances are you have a dominant image for each. Whatever that image, it's only a single layer of what makes that person an individual. Is what you've written true? Maybe, but it's not the entire story for that person, it's a stereotype, and it's dangerous.

Explore Different Perspectives

This is why we should diversify our reading, explore other perspectives and open ourselves up to view not only literature, but more importantly, issues from contrarian points of view. Maybe it goes against everything we've been raised to believe, but by not doing so, we freely choose to live inside silos, where we're right and they're wrong, whoever we and they may be.

Now imagine what it must be like to live where "the single story" is the only story, either because of an authoritarian government, or widespread poverty that make the written word inaccessible. This, of course, brings up the even bigger issue about who writes our history books and who gets to choose where history begins. Add to this the single stories that we're responsible for perpetuating within our own communities and we have too many people with a warped sense of reality (which probably explains why every time I see a bumper sticker or silly update on social media that says "XYZ do it better," I want to vomit).

If you have the time, watch this TEDTalk. Adichie uses humor effectively to deliver her points

Are there books or stories you've read that have challenged your beliefs or preconceived ideas?