The danger of a single story by Chimamanda Adichie

Similar to most successful happenings of great social, political and/or economic impact that immediately receive criticism from entities attempting to “unveil” their real but hidden intentions, the TED and TEDx conferences also got their critics. While some argue that TED is the new conveyor belt of “patented” ideas allowing only an exclusive group of people to present their work mostly in the form of a “sales pitch”, others talk about a “pseudoscience” behind the TED Talks.

But nobody doubts the power of sharing beautiful stories of people who courageously fought against constrictive systems, stereotypes and clichés, against single stories about their countries or themselves that compromise the reality by portraying only one subjective perspective. TED is what gives a voice to these people and their stories becoming examples of courage and humanity worth spreading and sharing in the hope of changing malicious systems and cruel stereotypes.

What would happen if we wouldn’t have access to these different personal stories and experiences? Would we be able to notice the difference between hearing over and over again a single story about a country, a nation, a person or a topic as it’s usually done in the media and listening to more stories, more perspective on that country, that nation, that person or that topic? Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian author who attended John Hopkins and Yale universities has experienced both: she has been confronted with people who saw her through the eyes of the one story they ever heard about Nigeria and also almost fell into the trap of judging an entire nation according to the popular misconception.

In her funny, emotional and thought-provoking talk she speaks about our vulnerability in front of stories, how to overcome the ignorance that a single story usually generates and how single stories are born and led. Power, be it economical or political, is what dictates when, how and how many stories are told and most importantly it makes them the definitive stories of others. How many stories of America and how many stories of Nigeria do you know? The answer lies in power. More stories empower. Stories matter.

Listen to her talk and remember that when you hear a story about a place, a person or a nation, there’s more to it than just that one story.

Header Image(s) from Pixabay & Gratisography

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