This reading is available in two formats: standard and modified. The modified version has been edited to support use in the unit Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior.

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie describes the effects that labels can have on how we think about ourselves and others:

I'm a storyteller. And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call “the danger of the single story.” I grew up on a university campus in eastern Nigeria. My mother says that I started reading at the age of two, although I think four is probably close to the truth. So I was an early reader, and what I read were British and American children’s books.

I was also an early writer, and when I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon illustrations that my poor mother was obligated to read, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn't have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to . . .

What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify. Now, things changed when I discovered African books. There weren't many of them available, and they weren't quite as easy to find as the foreign books.

But because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye, I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized.

Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature. So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story of what books are.

I come from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. My father was a professor. My mother was an administrator. And so we had, as was the norm, live-in domestic help, who would often come from nearby rural villages. So, the year I turned eight, we got a new house boy. His name was Fide. The only thing my mother told us about him was that his family was very poor. My mother sent yams and rice, and our old clothes, to his family. And when I didn't finish my dinner, my mother would say, “Finish your food! Don’t you know? People like Fide's family have nothing.” So I felt enormous pity for Fide’s family.

Then one Saturday, we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.

Years later, I thought about this when I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove. 

What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.

I must say that before I went to the U.S., I didn't consciously identify as African. But in the U.S., whenever Africa came up, people turned to me. Never mind that I knew nothing about places like Namibia. But I did come to embrace this new identity, and in many ways I think of myself now as African . . .

So, after I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate's response to me. If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide's family . . .

And so, I began to realize that my American roommate must have throughout her life seen and heard different versions of this single story . . .

But I must quickly add that I too am just as guilty in the question of the single story. A few years ago, I visited Mexico from the U.S. The political climate in the U.S. at the time was tense, and there were debates going on about immigration. And, as often happens in America, immigration became synonymous with Mexicans. There were endless stories of Mexicans as people who were fleecing the healthcare system, sneaking across the border, being arrested at the border, that sort of thing.

I remember walking around on my first day in Guadalajara, watching the people going to work, rolling up tortillas in the marketplace, smoking, laughing. I remember first feeling slight surprise. And then, I was overwhelmed with shame. I realized that I had been so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they had become one thing in my mind, the abject immigrant. I had bought into the single story of Mexicans and I could not have been more ashamed of myself. So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo [a language spoken in Nigeria] word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It's a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story . . .

When I learned, some years ago, that writers were expected to have had really unhappy childhoods to be successful, I began to think about how I could invent horrible things my parents had done to me. But the truth is that I had a very happy childhood, full of laughter and love, in a very close-knit family.

But I also had grandfathers who died in refugee camps. My cousin Polle died because he could not get adequate healthcare. One of my closest friends, Okoloma, died in a plane crash because our fire trucks did not have water. I grew up under repressive military governments that devalued education, so that sometimes, my parents were not paid their salaries. And so, as a child, I saw jam disappear from the breakfast table, then margarine disappeared, then bread became too expensive, then milk became rationed. And most of all, a kind of normalized political fear invaded our lives.

All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. 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: There are immense ones, such as the horrific rapes in Congo and depressing ones, such as the fact that 5,000 people apply for one job vacancy in Nigeria. But there are other stories that are not about catastrophe, and it is very important, it is just as important, to talk about them.

I've always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. 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.

So what if before my Mexican trip, I had followed the immigration debate from both sides, the U.S. and the Mexican? What if my mother had told us that Fide's family was poor and hardworking? What if we had an African television network that broadcast diverse African stories all over the world? What the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe calls “a balance of stories.”

What if my roommate knew about my Nigerian publisher, Muhtar Bakare, a remarkable man who left his job in a bank to follow his dream and start a publishing house? Now, the conventional wisdom was that Nigerians don't read literature. He disagreed. He felt that people who could read, would read, if you made literature affordable and available to them . . .

Now, what if my roommate knew about my friend Fumi Onda, a fearless woman who hosts a TV show in Lagos, and is determined to tell the stories that we prefer to forget? What if my roommate knew about the heart procedure that was performed in the Lagos hospital last week? What if my roommate knew about contemporary Nigerian music, talented people singing in English and Pidgin, and Igbo and Yoruba and Ijo, mixing influences from Jay-Z to Fela to Bob Marley to their grandfathers[?]

What if my roommate knew about the female lawyer who recently went to court in Nigeria to challenge a ridiculous law that required women to get their husband's consent before renewing their passports? What if my roommate knew about Nollywood, full of innovative people making films despite great technical odds, films so popular that they really are the best example of Nigerians consuming what they produce? What if my roommate knew about my wonderfully ambitious hair braider, who has just started her own business selling hair extensions? Or about the millions of other Nigerians who start businesses and sometimes fail, but continue to nurse ambition?

Every time I am home I am confronted with the usual sources of irritation for most Nigerians: our failed infrastructure, our failed government, but also by the incredible resilience of people who thrive despite the government, rather than because of it. I teach writing workshops in Lagos every summer, and it is amazing to me how many people apply, how many people are eager to write, to tell stories . . .

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her Southern relatives who had moved to the North. She introduced them to a book about the Southern life that they had left behind. “They sat around, reading the book themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.” I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise. 1

This reading is also viewable as a video.

  1. Citations

    • 1 Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story,” TED video (filmed July 2009, posted October 2009), 18:49, accessed March 28, 2016.

     

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a writer who has won several awards for her novels, short stories, and essays. She was born in Nigeria, and she attended universities in both Nigeria and the United States. She continues to live in both countries. In her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” Adichie describes the effects that labels can have on how we think about ourselves and others.

I come from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. My father was a professor. My mother was an administrator. And so we had, as was the norm, live-in domestic help, who would often come from nearby rural villages. So, the year I turned eight, we got a new house boy. His name was Fide. The only thing my mother told us about him was that his family was very poor. My mother sent yams and rice, and our old clothes, to his family. And when I didn't finish my dinner, my mother would say, “Finish your food! Don’t you know? People like Fide's family have nothing.” So I felt enormous pity for Fide’s family.

Then one Saturday, we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.

Years later, I thought about this when I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey [an American pop singer]. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.

What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.

I must say that before I went to the U.S., I didn't consciously identify as African. But in the U.S., whenever Africa came up, people turned to me. Never mind that I knew nothing about places like Namibia. But I did come to embrace this new identity, and in many ways I think of myself now as African . . .

So, after I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate's response to me. If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide's family . . .

And so, I began to realize that my American roommate must have throughout her life seen and heard different versions of this single story . . .

But I must quickly add that I too am just as guilty in the question of the single story. A few years ago, I visited Mexico from the U.S. The political climate in the U.S. at the time was tense, and there were debates going on about immigration. And, as often happens in America, immigration became synonymous with Mexicans. There were endless stories of Mexicans as people who were fleecing the healthcare system, sneaking across the border, being arrested at the border, that sort of thing.

I remember walking around on my first day in Guadalajara, watching the people going to work, rolling up tortillas in the marketplace, smoking, laughing. I remember first feeling slight surprise. And then, I was overwhelmed with shame. I realized that I had been so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they had become one thing in my mind, the abject immigrant. I had bought into the single story of Mexicans and I could not have been more ashamed of myself. So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo [a language spoken in Nigeria] word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It's a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they're told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person . . . [T]he truth is that I had a very happy childhood, full of laughter and love, in a very close-knit family.

But I also had grandfathers who died in refugee camps. My cousin Polle died because he could not get adequate healthcare. One of my closest friends, Okoloma, died in a plane crash because our fire trucks did not have water. I grew up under repressive military governments that devalued education, so that sometimes, my parents were not paid their salaries. And so, as a child, I saw jam disappear from the breakfast table, then margarine disappeared, then bread became too expensive, then milk became rationed. And most of all, a kind of normalized political fear invaded our lives.

All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. 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: There are immense ones, such as the horrific rapes in Congo, and depressing ones, such as the fact that 5,000 people apply for one job vacancy in Nigeria. But there are other stories that are not about catastrophe, and it is very important, it is just as important, to talk about them.

I've always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. 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.

So what if before my Mexican trip, I had followed the immigration debate from both sides, the U.S. and the Mexican? What if my mother had told us that Fide's family was poor and hardworking? What if we had an African television network that broadcast diverse African stories all over the world? . . .

. . . What if my roommate knew about the female lawyer who recently went to court in Nigeria to challenge a ridiculous law that required women to get their husband's consent before renewing their passports? What if my roommate knew about Nollywood, full of innovative people making films despite great technical odds, films so popular that they really are the best example of Nigerians consuming what they produce? What if my roommate knew about my wonderfully ambitious hair braider, who has just started her own business selling hair extensions? Or about the millions of other Nigerians who start businesses and sometimes fail, but continue to nurse ambition?

Every time I am home I am confronted with the usual sources of irritation for most Nigerians: our failed infrastructure, our failed government, but also by the incredible resilience of people who thrive despite the government, rather than because of it. I teach writing workshops in Lagos every summer, and it is amazing to me how many people apply, how many people are eager to write, to tell stories . . .

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her Southern relatives who had moved to the North. She introduced them to a book about the Southern life that they had left behind. “They sat around, reading the book themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.” I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.1

This reading is also viewable as a video.

Citations

  • 1 : Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story,” TED video (filmed July 2009, posted October 2009), 18:49, accessed March 28, 2016.

El Peligro de la Historia Única

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie es una escritora que ha ganado varios premios por sus novelas, relatos cortos y ensayos. Nació en Nigeria y estudió en universidades de Nigeria y de los Estados Unidos. Ahora reside en ambos países. En su charla de TED, “El peligro de la historia única”, Adichie describe las repercusiones que las etiquetas pueden tener en la manera como pensamos sobre nosotros mismos y los demás.

Vengo de una familia nigeriana convencional de clase media. Mi padre era profesor universitario. Mi madre era administradora. Y, como era costumbre, teníamos personal de servicios domésticos, generalmente proveniente de aldeas rurales cercanas. Cuando cumplí ocho años, recibimos a un empleado doméstico. Su nombre era Fide. Lo único que mi madre nos dijo sobre él era que su familia era muy pobre. Mi madre le enviaba a su familia ñame, arroz y nuestra ropa usada. Cuando yo no terminaba mi cena, mi madre decía: “¡Termina tu cena! ¿Acaso no sabes que personas como la familia de Fide no tienen nada?” Así que sentía mucha lástima por la familia de Fide.

Luego, un sábado fuimos a su aldea a visitarlos y su madre nos mostró una canasta diseñada a la perfección, que el hermano de Fide había tejido con rafia teñida. Quedé sorprendida; pues no se me había ocurrido que alguien en su familia pudiera hacer algo. Solo había escuchado hablar de su terrible pobreza, así que para mí era imposible verlos como algo más que pobres. Su pobreza era la única historia que conocía sobre ellos.

Años después, pensé en eso cuando salí de Nigeria para ir a la universidad en los Estados Unidos. Yo tenía 19 años. Mi compañera de habitación estadounidense quedó impresionada conmigo, me preguntó en dónde había aprendido a hablar inglés tan bien, y se sintió confundida cuando le dije que, de hecho, el idioma oficial de Nigeria era el inglés. Me preguntó si podía escuchar, lo que ella llamaba, mi “música tribal” y, por supuesto, se sintió muy desilusionada cuando reproduje la cinta de Mariah Carey [cantante popular estadounidense]. Ella asumía que yo no sabía usar una estufa.

Lo que más me sorprendió fue que ella sentía pena por mí, incluso antes de conocerme. Su actitud anticipada hacia mí, como africana, era una especie de lástima condescendiente y bien intencionada. Mi compañera de habitación solo conocía una historia de África: una historia única de catástrofes; en dicha historia única, no cabía la posibilidad de que los africanos se parecieran a ella de ninguna manera; no cabía la posibilidad de sentir algo más complejo que lástima; no cabía la posibilidad de crear una conexión como seres humanos iguales.

Debo decir que antes de ir a los Estados Unidos, no me identificaba de manera consciente como africana, pero en los Estados Unidos, siempre que se hacía referencia a África las personas recurrían a mí; no importaba que yo no supiera nada sobre países como Namibia. Sin embargo, aprendí a acoger esta nueva identidad y, hoy en día, me veo a mí misma como africana, en muchos sentidos…

Así que, luego de pasar algunos años en los Estados Unidos como africana, comencé a entender la reacción de mi compañera de habitación. Si no hubiera crecido en Nigeria, y si solo hubiera conocido África a través de imágenes populares, yo también habría pensado que África era un lugar de hermosos paisajes y animales, y de gente incomprensible que libran guerras sin sentido y mueren a causa de la pobreza y del sida, incapaces de hablar por sí mismos y que esperan ser salvados por un extranjero blanco y gentil. Hubiera visto a los africanos de la misma manera en que había visto a la familia de Fide, cuando era una niña…

Empecé a entender que mi compañera de habitación estadounidense debió haber visto y escuchado, a lo largo de su vida, diferentes versiones de esta historia única…

Pero debo añadir cuanto antes que yo también soy igual de culpable si nos referimos al asunto de la historia única. Hace unos años, viajé de los Estados Unidos a México. En esa época, el clima político de los Estados Unidos era tenso y había debates sobre la inmigración. Y, como suele ocurrir en los Estados Unidos, la inmigración se volvió sinónimo de mexicanos. Hubo un sinfín de noticias de mexicanos que saqueaban el sistema de salud, que se escabullían por la frontera, que eran arrestados en la frontera, ese tipo de noticias.

Recuerdo mi primer día, dando una vuelta por Guadalajara, mirando a las personas mientras se desplazaban al trabajo, preparaban tortillas en la plaza de mercado, fumaban y reían. Recuerdo que al comienzo me sentí un poco sorprendida y luego me embargó la vergüenza. Me di cuenta que había estado tan inmersa en el cubrimiento mediático sobre los mexicanos que se habían convertido en una sola cosa en mi mente: inmigrantes abyectos. Había creído en la historia única sobre los mexicanos y no podría haber sentido más vergüenza de mí misma. Es así como se crea una historia única, mostrando a las personas como una cosa, como una sola cosa, una y otra vez, hasta que se convierten en eso.

Es imposible hablar de la historia única sin hablar del poder. Existe una palabra en igbo [un idioma hablado en Nigeria], que recuerdo cada vez que pienso en las estructuras de poder en el mundo, esa palabra es “nkali”; un sustantivo cuya traducción es “ser más grande que el otro”. Al igual que nuestros mundos políticos y económicos, las historias también se definen por el principio de nkali: cómo se cuentan, quién las cuenta, cuándo se cuentan, cuántas historias se cuentan; en realidad, todo depende del poder.

El poder es la capacidad no solo de contar la historia de otra persona, sino de convertirla en la historia definitiva de esa persona…[L]a verdad es que tuve una infancia muy feliz, llena de risas y amor, en el seno de una familia muy unida.

Pero también tuve abuelos que murieron en campos de refugiados; mi primo Polle murió porque no pudo recibir atención médica adecuada; uno de mis amigos más cercanos, Okoloma, murió a causa de un accidente aéreo porque nuestros camiones de bomberos no tenían agua. Crecí bajo regímenes militares represivos que menospreciaban la educación, por lo que mis padres a veces no recibían sus salarios. En consecuencia, en mi infancia, vi la jalea desaparecer de la mesa a la hora del desayuno, luego fue la margarina; después, el pan se volvió muy costoso y luego racionaron la leche. Y, más que nada, una especie de temor político generalizado invadió nuestras vidas.

Lo que soy ahora, es producto de todas estas historias, pero insistir solo en historias negativas sería simplificar mi experiencia y pasar por alto muchas otras historias que me formaron. La historia única crea estereotipos, y el problema con los estereotipos no es que sean falsos, sino que estén incompletos. Hacen que una sola historia se convierta en la única historia.

Por supuesto, África es un continente plagado de catástrofes: algunas son inmensas, como las terribles violaciones en el Congo y otras son deprimentes, como el hecho de que se postulen 5,000 personas por cada vacante laboral en Nigeria. Sin embargo, existen otras historias que no hablan de catástrofes y es igualmente importante hablar de ellas.

Siempre he pensado que es imposible relacionarse adecuadamente con un lugar o una persona sin relacionarse con todas las historias de ese lugar y esa persona. La consecuencia de la historia única es que… despoja a las personas de su dignidad; dificulta el reconocimiento de nuestra igualdad humana; enfatiza nuestras diferencias en lugar de nuestras similitudes. Entonces, ¿qué tal si el debate sobre la inmigración, entre los Estados Unidos y México, me hubiera influenciado antes de mi viaje a México? ¿Qué tal si mi madre nos hubiera explicado que la familia de Fide era pobre y muy trabajadora? ¿Qué tal si tuviésemos una cadena de televisión africana que presentara diversas historias africanas en todo el mundo?…

… ¿Qué tal si mi compañera de habitación hubiera sabido algo sobre la abogada que recientemente acudió a los tribunales en Nigeria con el fin de demandar una ley ridícula que les exigía a las mujeres obtener el consentimiento de sus esposos para renovar sus pasaportes? ¿Qué tal si mi compañera de habitación hubiera sabido algo sobre Nollywood?, un lugar repleto de personas innovadoras que hacen películas a pesar de las grandes deficiencias técnicas; películas tan populares que son realmente el mejor ejemplo de cómo los nigerianos consumen lo que producen. ¿Qué tal si mi compañera de habitación hubiera sabido algo sobre la persona emprendedora y maravillosa que trenza mi cabello, quien acaba de iniciar su propio negocio de venta de extensiones de cabello? O, ¿qué tal si hubiera sabido algo sobre los millones de nigerianos que también emprenden negocios y a veces fracasan, pero siguen siendo emprendedores?

Cada vez que estoy en casa me enfrento a lo que irrita usualmente a la mayoría de nigerianos: nuestra infraestructura deficiente, nuestro gobierno fracasado, pero también me encuentro con la increíble resiliencia de las personas que prosperan a pesar del gobierno y no gracias al él. Todos los veranos imparto talleres de escritura en Lagos, y es impresionante ver la cantidad de personas que se inscriben y la cantidad de personas ansiosas por escribir y por contar historias…

Las historias importan. Muchas historias importan. Las historias se han utilizado para despojar y para difamar, pero también se pueden utilizar para empoderar y humanizar. Las historias pueden romper la dignidad de las personas, pero también pueden reparar esa dignidad rota.

La escritora estadounidense, Alice Walker, escribió esto sobre sus parientes sureños que se habían mudado al Norte. Les mostró un libro sobre la vida sureña que habían dejado atrás. “Estaban sentados, leyendo el libro, escuchándome mientras yo lo leía, y fue así que sintieron que recuperaban una especie de paraíso”. Me gustaría terminar con esta reflexión: cuando rechazamos la historia única, cuando nos damos cuenta de que nunca hay una historia única sobre ningún lugar, recuperamos una especie de paraíso.1

Esta lectura también está disponible como un video con subtítulos en español.

Citations

  • 1 : 1 Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story,” TED video (filmed July 2009, posted October 2009), 18:49, accessed March 28, 2016.

Connection Questions

  1. Create an identity chart for Chimamanda Adichie. Which labels on the chart represent how she sees her own identity? Which ones represent how some others view her?
  2. What does Adichie mean by a “single story”? What examples does she give? Why does she believe “single stories” are dangerous?
  3. Is there a single story that others often use to define you? Can you think of other examples of “single stories” that may be part of your own worldview? Where do those “single stories” come from? How can we find a “balance of stories”?
  4. Adichie herself admits to sometimes defining others with a single story. Why is it that people sometimes make the same mistakes that they so easily see others making?

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