Christian Long

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

In TED Talks on April 12, 2010 at 9:13 am

Reflection by SHANNON L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Chimamanda Adichie:  The Danger of a Single Story

Our individual view of the world is shaped by what we are exposed to.

As a child all Chimamanda Adichie knew about books was what she learned through her English and American novels. When she began to write stories all she wrote about were blue eyed and blond haired girls who ate apples and talked about the weather. It wasn’t until she began reading African books that she realized people like her were actually written about and more importantly she didn’t realize that their was an audience interested in this information.

Chimamanda came from a middle class family in Nigeria, where her dad was a professor and her mom was an administrator. When she was eight years old her family hired a servant boy to work for them. All she had heard about his family was that they were very very poor. When she went to his village one day she saw a beautiful basket weaved by his brother. Chimamanda was amazed because she had no idea that the the boy’s family was capable of making anything because her single story about him was that they were very poor. If she had not visited his village her perspective of him would probably not have changed.

When she was nineteen she went to America to study at a University. She then noticed that she was not the only one who had fallen into the danger of a single story. Before her roommate had met her, she had already felt enormous pity towards her. Her roommate was surprised when she discovered that Chimamanda’s “tribal music” was actually Mariah Carey. She was not only surprised by her music but by how well she spoke English and that the official language of Nigeria was English. It was after this that I think she realized that it was important to get more than one perspective about people and places before forming an opinion.

The tradition of African stories in the West began with English writers, such as John Locke. He was one of many who began to bring negative perspectives about the people of Africa to the rest of the world. It was because of these perspectives that the world sees the people of Africa as poor tribal people who were starving and illiterate.

When she visited Mexico she realized that once again she had a prejudice perspective of that world, like her roommate had a negative perspective of Nigeria. Chimamanda was shocked to discover that Mexico was so much more than immigrants who were fleecing the United States, a perspective she had learned from watching American news. In conclusion it is important to learn different perspectives about the world and your surroundings before forming opinions.


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