Chimamanda Adichie’s speech offers clarifying insight into the concepts we have recently covered. Her exploration of “The single story” challenges our habits of developing static perceptions of people and places.
Adichie’s statement, “Show a people as one thing, as only one thing over and over again, and that is what they become” offers a simple articulation of a thought that I was always unable to verbally form (Adichie). While the depictions of what or who we perceive as “the other” may have no ill will or harmful intentions they actively shape the way in which we interact with “the other”. Adichie highlights “power” as an important aspect of “the single story” narrative (Adichie). Those who can control the narrative presented in some ways control people’s personal perspectives and opinions. As Adichie states “Power is not only the ability to just tell the story of another person but to make it the definitive story of that person” (Adichie). From this concept we get the development of stereotypes and their adverse effects on society. It seems that these misinformed or simply just not fully informed ideas can negatively affect real people whether we recognize it or not. National Geographic’s recent issue explores this concept further as they reevaluate their past coverage of minorities. They have found that while their magazine worked to expand the general public’s view of the world they were simultaneous narrowing the scope to only focus on “the single story” narrative of their subjects. Pacific Islander women were sexualized and exoticized; aborigines were dehumanized and subjected to cruel caricature like portrayals. African American men and women were almost never covered and when they were included in the narrative they were classified as laborers and help. As Adichie concludes, these narrative do not portray the one single known truth; they are instead “incomplete” stories (Adichie). These biased depictions perpetrated a inaccurate portrayal of real people and in turn perpetrated the justification of their treatment.