The Danger of a Single Story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I have to admit to a mixed impression of TED Talks. Some of them seem more flash than substance. But then there are talks like this one, which is at once funny, real and moving. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was kind enough to gift to the world the fantastic novel Americanah, owns the stage in delivering this moving talk.

The talk is called “The Danger of a Single Story” and in it, she discusses the limited worldview we create for ourselves when we only have only one narrative for a culture. Frankly, she says this better than I ever could, so I’m simply going to post my favorite excerpt below, but I encourage you to watch the whole talk. It’s absolutely worth the 18 minutes.

“All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story….

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”