Why should we begin to try and reject the single stories in our life?

Perspective is a magical thing. It can recreate worlds, turn politics on its head and transform people and places into more than they originally were. We as humans have a desire to obtain knowledge, to understand and to advance, yet in this haste we often have trouble escaping from the bondage of our own opinions and possibly flawed perceptions of the world around us. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s presentation on The Danger of a single story we can see the unexpected and overlooked effects of these single sided views. She states that when she first started storytelling and writing, she “wrote exactly the kind of stories I was reading”.

This is similar to how when we as humans take in information, we tend towards repeating that information again. This is how stereotypes begin, with gossip and rumors and an idea of what people think the truth may be. Stereotypes, as we know, can have incredibly detrimental effects on the mental and emotional well-being of those they apply to. We will say that all stereotypes are based off of truth, and though that may be accurate in some cases, the truth can evolve, change and mutate over time until this ancient descendant of accuracy almost becomes fact to us. Chimamanda explains how she, as part of a racial minority has experienced people who have a preconceived notion of how she will behave, how she grew up, and who she is, based only on her place of birth. She then freely admits that she too has fallen into the trap of a single story, one where she was led to believe that all Mexicans were “fleecing the healthcare system, sneaking across the border, getting caught at the border”.

She explains how guilty she felt after that, and how all she could feel was frustration when her roommate and professor did the same to her. After this, She “went through a mental shift in my perception of literature” as well as her perception of the world around her, and she encourages us to open our minds to do the same, however difficult that may be.

What we can take away from this presentation is the idea of every coin having two sides, every story having multiple perspectives and possible perceptions. Chimamanda teaches us that to see something properly, we have to try and put ourselves on every side of an argument, into the shoes of every character in a story and look at all the facts before jumping and free-falling to what seems to be the easiest conclusion. It is important to accept that our first response to an idea isn’t always right and some people have trouble admitting that, yet if we learn to be flexible with our beliefs, and stay open to new ideas, we will have a better understanding of that idea as a whole.