Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” gives an overview of the negative influences of a single story. According to her, a single-story results from a lack of knowledge of others. This is common among children because they are “impressionable and vulnerable”1. One of the experiences I have with a single story dates back to my childhood. Growing up, I used to hear stories of how Muslim women, especially those who wear the hijab, are dangerous. We used to hide whenever we saw someone with a full face-covering Burgas. The characters with hijabs that we read in stories were all portrayed as evil. They would pretend to be good but in the end, harm others. Even our parents used to warn us not to talk to such people. My neighbor used to tell us how one of her children was taken by a woman with a full facing-covering Burgas never to be seen again. I must admit that I grew up fearing Muslim women.
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Connections to Stereotypes and Generalizations
In the video, Adichie shared several examples to show how generalizations are made. A good example is when her college roommate held a “default position” of “well-meaning pity” towards her (04:49)1. I experienced the same while in high school: we had a few Muslims in our class. In one particular instance, I asked one of my friends how he found it easy interacting with Muslim-Americans. He seemed surprised and inquired why I asked the question. I boldly told him that Muslims are dangerous people and never to be trusted. He assured me that they are good people and it is at this point that I started seeing them differently. However, the common belief among my classmate was that covering the face was a sign of oppression. According to them, the face symbolizes freedom of expression, thus, covering it equates to silence.
My experience, as described above, also has several connections to stereotypes. For instance, the American citizens with less favorable views about Muslims based on violence and trustworthiness are more likely to be biassed when it comes to fighting the war on terror. According to research, the U.S identified about 165 Muslim-American terrorists to be directly involved with 9/112. It is from this collection of violence that the media and the government bring Muslim-American suspects to public attention. In essence, stereotypes result from incomplete stories about a particular group of people. The stories our parents saw on TV are what prompted them to start warning us against associating with Muslims.
Steps to Counteract the Effects
In the video, Adichie maintained that the media and literature available to the public usually tell one story. This in return causes them to generalize and make assumptions about others. She also stated that the strong media coverage of Mexican immigrants compelled her to start associating them with immigration (08: 53)1. In my case, I started taking the necessary steps to counteract the effects of thinking as demonstrated by Adichie during my second year in high school. My first step was to start interacting with students from different cultural and religious backgrounds. By having more contact with students from other cultures, I realized that we are more alike than different. Another step was to start looking for diverse stories on a particular issue instead of focusing on just one.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The danger of a single story. TED Talk.”(2009).
Saleem, Muniba, et al. “Social identity threats: How media and discrimination affect Muslim Americans’ identification as Americans and trust in the US government.” Journal of Communication 69.2 (2019): 214-236.