The Dangers of a Single Story

January 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm Leave a comment

Single stories are everywhere. They are one sided stories that give people the wrong idea about a certain place, thing or group of people.
What makes them such an issue is that they create stereotypes. Instead of highlighting how similar people or places are they highlight the differences. We have all believed a single story at one point in our lives, some of us still do.

My Grandmother believed a single story when she left St. Lucia for the UK. People there convinced her she would have no difficulty getting a job, and that England was a wonderful place where the streets were literally paved with gold. Despite this, no one told her that England had areas below the poverty line and that most of the time she would be refused a job as the colour of her skin was an issue. One example of me personally believing a single story is when I went to America for the first time. I found it strange to see poor areas and homeless people living on the streets everyday as beforehand, I didn’t believe that such a thing existed in America. It was nothing like the way I’d seen/heard of it before.

While there’s some truth in single stories, they all have one thing in common, they leave important things out. A good example can be seen with the author Chimamanda Adichie. Raised in a Middle Class family in Nigeria, she decided to go to College in the US. When meeting her American room mate, she was surprised that Chimamanda could speak English so well, despite being told that English was Nigeria’s official language. She was surprised that Chimamanda knew how to use a stove as she didn’t think that such basic facilities existed in Africa. When she  asked if she could hear some of her “tribal music”, she was pretty surprised when Chimamanda pulled out her Mariah Carey CD.

Like mentioned before, single stories leave vital bits of information out, making it very similar to propaganda as they’re used to manipulate people into thinking a certain way about a various noun. In the case of a continent like Africa, vital bits of information are constantly left out. While it’s true that there are people there who suffer from things like AIDs, conflict and poverty this only happens to some of them, not everyone, (in the same way that AIDs and poverty only affect some people in Britain and the United States rather than the whole nation). What’s left out is the fact that there are just as many there with average lives. There are middle class people who work and do things like drink coffee and read newspapers daily just like their counterparts in places like America, however many people will never know or believe this due to them hearing single stories that leave all these factors out.

While we all can’t control what is being said in these single stories, we can control whether to believe them or not. We also have the choice to look more into the topic and find out those vital parts of information that are being left out.
There are two sides to every story, in the case of a single story, we have to option to hear that other side and know the truth rather than one’s misconceptions.

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Entry filed under: Freedom of Speech, Misconceptions, Racism, Stereotypes, The Media. Tags: , , , .

How Christmas has Changed Over The Years Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of A Single Story

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