I encourage everyone to watch novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s 2009 TED talk “The Danger of A Single Story.” Adichie uses her personal experiences to illustrate the importance of sharing different stories about people. She warns of the consequences of a single story and how it can rob people of their dignity, create stereotypes, and make difficult the recognition of our equal humanity.
Adichie’s talk made me ponder current events and how many American politicians and leaders are attempting to create a single story about immigrants and others. One, in particular, is the group of Central American migrants fleeing danger and desperate situations for a new life in America. The president and others are painting them as criminals who are trying to invade the country. This is dangerous. It’s a seemingly hateful attempt to fan the flames of division and stoke the fears of his supporters. Adichie says, “show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” She continues “power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” Imagine if the first story told about this group of migrants was that many are mothers and fathers who desire safety and security for their families. Doing so would change the narrative entirely. To insist on only negative stories, those in power are attempting to dehumanize migrants and encourage Americans to believe that migrants are in no way similar to them. These views are extremely dangerous and can result in violence against an entire group of people.
I hope Adichie’s talk will encourage more people to not buy into a single story told about others. And in doing so, recognize that all people are informed and shaped by many stories. This is needed always, but especially in current times.