Christian Long

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

In TED Talks on April 21, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Extra credit reflection by MELISSA H.

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

Chimamanda Adichie:  The Danger of a Single Story

Chimamanda Adichie grew up in Nigeria. When I think of Nigeria, I think of Africa which leads me to think of poor families starving with no food and doing everything they can just to stay alive one more day.

This was my “single story” of Africa. Well behind everyone’s single story there are many stories that usually happen to be different from everyone’s opinion.

Chimamanda actually was apart of a middle class family, where her dad was a professor and her mom was an administrator. When she was four she started reading American and British children’s books, that seemed to tell the same story every time. There was always the white blue- eyed kid that played in the snow, ate apples, and talked a lot about the weather. Now she lived in Nigeria, so of course there were no blue eyed kids, snow, and weather talk. She ate mangoes, and there was not much to say about the weather because it didn’t change very often. This was a clear example of how vulnerable she was. She thought all books had to have foreigners in them because that’s all she gre up reading. African books are a lot different. There weren’t very many of them and they were usually hard to find. This saved her from having a single story of what books are.

When Chimamanda turned eight, her family got a new house boy. But, all her mother included about him was that he was poor. Visiting his village one day, she discovered the ability that his brother could create something so unique. Having been only told about the family’s inability to make money, she had never thought they could exceed in anything else. This was her single story about the family.

Now Chimamanda decided to move to the US to attend a University. Her roommate was surprised about the fact that Chimamanda’s English was so clear and even more shocked when she was told it was Nigeria’s official language. Her roommate wanted to hear some of her tribal music, which ironically was Mariah Carey. Her roommate had felt sorry before she had even met her because she knew she was from Africa. This was a single story of Africa.

I think everyone is guilty of having a single story of thing or some place. Chimamanda has said she is even guilty. When she visited Mexico she thought it was going to be full of immigrants being arrested at the border and trying to cheat the healthcare system. “I had bought into the single story of Mexicans and I could not have been more ashamed of myself.” I personally think that everyone should feel ashamed of themselves for believing a “single story.”

“Of course, Africa is a continent full of catastrophes. There are immense ones, such as the horrific rapes in Congo. And depressing ones, such as the fact that 5,000 people apply for one job vacancy in Nigeria. But there are other stories that are not about catastrophe. And it is very important, it is just as important, to talk about them.” I don’t think I could have said this better myself. I believe that not only Africa, but everyone continent or country has bad things in them and that’s the story we believe. Although that story is true, I think we need to discover the other stories. Many of the stories could be very inspirational to us and for us to spread them along to our friends and families.

Chimamanda talks about how the consequence of a single story “robs people from their dignity.” Spreading this story about Chimamanda could give back to Africa. People’s opinions about single stories could change, but also people won’t believe the single stories and know that there is a background and more to the “single story.”


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