Ted Talks: Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda’s talk about the dangers of a single story really touched me. Stereotypes are natural. This is made clear in her talk because she shares her personal confession with having a misconception about someone because she only knew one side of the story. She tells a story about how, in Nigeria, her family hired a poor boy to help around the house and such. As a little girl, she developed a single story of who the boy was because all she knew about him was that he was poor.

Then, she talks about how her American college roommate had a certain predisposition to think that she was an african girl with a tough life who grew up in the poor villages of Nigeria because that was the only thing she knew about the country/Africa as a whole. 

This parallel was extremely interesting to me because I have never really sat down and thought about why stereotypes exist. Chimamanda Adichie’s explanation of the “single story” made it clear to me why we develop such stereotypes about people. My understanding of “single story” is that it is a singular view that reflects something true, or false, of an individual’s culture that is used to explain their behavior and this leads to misconceptions about a person. Usually, people attribute what they think about a culture as a whole to a particular individual and this helps us label them socially. This can be applied to my life because people assume I eat Chinese food all the time; meanwhile, I hate Chinese food and basically all other Asian foods. My favorite example is when people ask me if I’ve eaten all these exotic animals that Asians have a reputation for eating, (i.e. dogs, cats, sharks, scorpions, etc.) and I get to tell them I’ve actually been a vegetarian for 9 years. I personally do not get offended when people assume things about me since I’m Asian because, like Chimamanda Adichie, I only know the single story of other cultures and I realize it is just being human.

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