The Danger of a Single Story

My season of waiting continues. Even though I am still in the US waiting for a visa to Indonesia, I can share important stories. Today I will share a video I first encountered a few years ago, which is from a TED conference in 2009 (click to learn more about TED).

In the video below, novelist Chimamanda Adichie speaks about the danger of a single story. From the description on the TED website: “Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

And Adichie in her own words:

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
“If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.”

I encourage you to do more than watch the video below. Take note of the stories around you. What narratives of the diverse continent of Africa (Or any other country or region of this world) are you reading? Who is telling the story? Whose voices are being heard? Whose voices are missing? Ask how can we move from pity toward justice, empowerment, and accompaniment.

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