The Danger of a Single Story

One of the most important parts of infusing a global perspective into the classroom is to help students understand that culture is complex. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns us of the danger of a single story. In this TED talk, Adichie emphasizes how stereotypes can be true, but incomplete. A story told over and over again about a group of people through the news, movies, television and books becomes the single story of that group. When Adichie started college in the United States her roommate was surprised that she spoke in fluent English and that she didn’t listen to “tribal music”. The roommate’s single story of Africa was a story of catastrophe and primitiveness. Although tribes and conflict exist in Africa,it does not tell the complete story of a continent of diverse cities, cultures and languages.

Adichie herself admits to having a single story of Mexico. She saw Mexico featured on the news as a place of illegal immigration  and poverty. When she visited Guadalajara she noticed people laughing and enjoying time with their families. Adichie had bought into a single story of Mexico.

We can all learn from Adichie’s story since we all have misconceptions about places in the world. By confronting those single stories we can go beyond the stereotypes and have a well rounded perception of the world.

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