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The danger of a single story

July 1, 2011

Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story is probably one of the best talks I have heard in a while and is well  deserving of being ranked in the top twenty videos on TED. According to the site, her talk is about

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.

At one point during her talk she says

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. Of course Africa is a continent full of catastrophes, the immense ones such as the horrific rapes in the Congo…but there are other stories that are not about catastrophes and it is very important, just as important, to talk about them…

The consequence of the single story is this:  it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

It robs people of dignity.

We wouldn’t want others to rob us of our dignity, so we must do everything we can not to rob them of theirs.

This is a talk that everyone needs to hear. We would do well to head the truths of how dangerous a single story can be and be much more attentive to making sure that we hear more than one story before making up our minds about a place, group, or person.

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