A single story is a view of something
A single story is a view of something, someone, or somewhere that only shows one side of the coin. It is incomplete and quite possibly full of bias. High school is a great example of this. Girls go through high school striving to be accepted by society’s standards. They go great lengths to look a certain way, weight a certain amount, and wear all the popular clothing brands. This is just the beginning of the “single story” of high school. It is not right for girls to have to look a certain way to be accepted in todays standards, however some people believe that there is…and that’s what leads to the making of single stories. Stereotyping can be very dangerous in the way that it can influence a person so much, that it can danger people’s lives and minds. Although some may claim that bias and having multiple sides to a story isn’t dangerous, Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie proves that a single story can create a disconnection and a misrepresentation between people of different cultures and has contributed to the cycle of stereotyping.
This TED Talk was by Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian author, who discussed the dangers of a single story, which outlined the negative effects of people only learning one stereotypical perspective about another country or culture and basing their own interpretations and identities to it. This video brings up the topic of cultural awareness and how important it is to understand the world and the people living in it. Her story started by her reading American and British books that had white, blue eyed, apple eating, ginger drinking children who only talked about the weather. She didn’t know any better, so she thought that was the “normal”. However, when she got older she realized that not every person has those certain qualities. She began reading African books where she learned that people like her did exist in literature and that it was perfectly fine. In the end, Adichie encourages the audience to “reject the single story” (Adichie), and to not believe everyone or everything you read. This brings up the importance of diversity and individuals being able to learn and embrace their own identity.
The audience is warned that single stories are dangerous and can lead to unwanted attention and opinions. Adichie claims that single stories, “robs people of dignity” and that they, “emphasize that we are different rather than how we are similar” (Adichie). This is important because, as Adichie illustrates, single stories can tear people apart by separating and dividing us from each other. Politics is a great example of this. Because we live in a free country, we are able to foster our own opinions. However, some people feel the need to share their opinions, and not always in an appropriate manner. When people start to speak of their believes or tell of a situation from their side, either republican or democrat, it creates a single story that can blow out of proportions. Not only do single stories affect politics, they also have a big impact on high schools. As Adichie notes, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete” (Adichie). She points out that nobody truly know the truth, except that one individual that actually experienced it. This reminded me a lot of high school. The amount of rumors and lies that are spread throughout a high school are disgusting. This proves the point that single stories are dangerous because like rumors, it can ruin a single person’s life.
Adichie’s theory of single stories is extremely important because it highlights the current problem of our country’s achievement gap. One of the problems that I have noticed, are that characters in books are often one-dimensional. Author’s create main characters that are frequently white males or females who go through a life altering problem, and as they get through it, they find out who they really are and end as a hero. Although those type of books are fun to read, there aren’t as many books that have a colored main character, or a main character from a different country or culture. As children are reading these books, they are only getting introduced and acquainted with mostly white skin, blue eyed, heroic characters. But little to they know, there is so much more in the world, different cultures, different colors of hair and skin tones that they have yet to read about. Another important issue regarding one-dimensional characters, are tv shows that air on Disney or Nickelodeon. One tv series that I loved when I was a child was Hannah Montana. The lead character, Hannah Montana, was blonde, had a perfect family, a nice and clean expensive house on the beach, and a petite body. Hannah Montana was my role model when I was little. I had posters, backpacks, lunch boxes, blankets, and shirts of her…I was absolutely obsessed with her. This happens with kids all around the world today too. This is a very relatable example of a single story, because, just like the childrens books, they focus on the perfect life of one person. The tv show glorifies the characters life, even though its not real. Yet, children don’t understand that it is fake, so they believe it in and look up to it.
Chimamanda Adichie ends her speech on a strong note that can help us further understand the importance of cultural awareness. She urges us to reject the single story, and to not trust it or listen to it. We should all strive to be socially and culturally united and aware when we come across these issues. It also speaks to the fact that it is never too late to become culturally aware and to learn about the stories of others. We should not judge after hearing only one side of the story. We should dig deeper and further investigate the topic at hand.