I recently listened to Nigerian author Ngozi Adichie talk about the inherent dangers of the single story. By failing to understand and appreciate multiple stories, the single story can end up shaping how we view people, nations and entire continents; our assumptions and opinions skewed by our ignorance and judgements.
For the last two weeks I’ve been travelling – one week at a resort in Mexico, frequented mostly by Americans, and now in Colorado. As a result I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been guilty of casting all Americans into a single story stereotype. That story reads something like this: Americans are loud and overly confident; they talk too much; they are culturally insensitive and disinterested in what goes on beyond the borders of the USA. They are consumed by super-sized consumerism.
In my defence, I may have heard one too many single story-tellers in the last two weeks, but it would be wrong of me to judge all North Americans because of a single story, stereotypical few.
In fact, I have had the pleasure of spending time with some wonderfully innovative and intelligent people who are interested in learning and understanding more of the world; folks whose diverse and multi-faceted stories will help shape the future narratives of generations to come.
Please don’t think I’m being judgemental about Americans, because I know that as soon as I board the plane back to Australia and hear a typical Aussie accent, I will have to remind myself that it takes more than a single story to truly understand the diversity of us Aussies as well.
2 thoughts on “Multi-story thinking”
Ngozi Adichie gave that speech at the Sydney Writers’ Festival a few years ago and I thought how important her message was then. We’re all guilty of believing single stories about other groups. I’ve shared the one about Americans, too, until I spent time there as a youth exchange student. One of the reasons I love to travel is to challenge the way I think about the world. Thanks for the great post, Shona.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post, Karen, and for your great comments.