The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Discussion Questions

1. How are single stories created? 
2. What identity do you have that can make people develop a single story about you? 
3. What are the possible assumptions you have about The Bridge Program, Co fellows, Organisers? Are they single stories? 

11 thoughts on “The danger of a single story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. After all that has been said by my learned friends, I believe there is little left to be added but I would try to buttress it.

    Singles stories are defined by those who tell them, how they are told, the number of people who hear them and the influence of the story-teller.

    A story that is often told from generation to generation seemingly becomes true. The personal influence of the individual behind the story often times influences whether or not the story is taken as credible.

    Sometimes this may be influenced by a person’s social, economic, political and cultural Background.

    For example, Nigerians living in Lagos would readily describe the three major tribes in Nigeria; Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa as, Igbo- selfish and Money conscious, Yoruba- Very keen on greeting and Party favourites, Hausa-Dirty and proficient in Agriculture. But a tour to other states would show that all these descriptions can be found in one tribe.

    While I was in secondary School I was labelled my class lawyer and was made to act as an adjudicator in disputes involving my friends. This was as a result of my penchant for arguing to state my point in disputes (which I always won). Although I am currently studying law, it is not for the same reason ascribed by my friends but I am interested in salvaging the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria.

    Now a law student, I still grapple with an identity that people ascribe to me as a result of my good looks. While some people would readily dismiss me citing that fine boys are not academically bright, others would simply stare in disbelief when I try to volunteer for physically tasking activities. I have had to also explain myself to girls who believe that as a fine boy, I was supposed to have numerous girlfriends or want more than a friendly relationship.

    The bridge program is seen as a leadership program which grooms future leaders to provide practical solutions to the problems facing Nigeria and also help in nations building. Fellows have also shared wonderful and intriguing experience. The assumption is that the organisers are not going to fall short of the narrative we have all heard.

    As to whether it is a single story or not, I believe this 2 weeks would enable me strike a balance as to any single story. It takes a paradigm shift in the mental process to change one’s perception about a thing he or she has held to be true for a very long time. So, by the 26th of October, 2018, I should be able to ascertain whether or not the story surrounding The Bridge Program were actually untrue or incomplete.

  2. Good day everyone!!! Am impressed about all our contributions and I must confess have learnt a lot from you guys.

    As a historian in the making, i have learnt dangers of single stories, and the importance of consulting different sources before you make a report. Often times, what we see or the general books we read are provoked by the thought of the writer or the convener of the message to suit or favor their personality, culture, nationality or any other personal interest. In this situation, one need to corroborate information before reaching a conclusion.

    Chimamanda said single story is created when you show a people as one thing over and over aagain and that is what they become. I have also being a victim of a single story, lying below in the next paragraph is my story.

    While growing up, i lived an arrogant, Stuborn, flamboyant lifestyle and I was always at the centre of all unrest and unscrupulous activities in my school.

    There was a day we had a visitor from the ministry of education in my school who came to my class to address us, seeing the way I was acting in class, this man asked me to stand up, he then said a statement ‘you must be a dullard, and am sure you have an empty brain’. The man was surprised when everyone in the class yelled, as a curious man he made the step to ask what the matter was and to his amazement everyone said he is brilliant!!!!!

    What do you think might have happened to the man? He only judged me as a result of what he saw about me, and Normaly the restive students are seen as the dull ones.

    I have done a lot of research about TBP and am convinced it’s a right plartforms for emerging leaders to learn, gain new skills and develop on their potentials. One thing that impress me most about the team is their organization. Have learnt a lot from them in that regard. However, since have not gotten a previous experience of TBP, I refuse to give a single story report. Thanks.

  3. I remember my teacher telling me as a little girl that there are no good or bad people. Every human person to her had both good and bad sides but what made a person identifiable with the trait ‘bad’ or ‘good’ was that which was more dominant in the person. Now to say that person is bad to Late Mrs onyema ( May her soul Rest In Peace) doesn’t mean that such a person does not possess any good attributes. This kind of assertion is only a pointer to the fact that such a person has more bad qualities than good ones. In a situation like this, the bad side over shadows the good side making it nearly impossible for an onlooker to see the good in such a person at a glance. Only upon close examination does it become revealed to the mind that there is some good in such a person. This illustration goes the other way as well. Though I was extremely terrified of arithmetics or mathematics as a child, I alway remembered the words of teacher with the aid of the ‘greater than or less than’ symbols. My guiding principles to judging the characters of people would have looked exactly like this ; G>B=G and B>G=B or G<B=B and B<G=G, where G represents ‘good attributes’ and B, ‘bad attributes’. I lived with this till I was old enough to decipher the nature of human conduct. In the same light, a single story is more or less what Mrs onyema was trying to stop me from creating. Very often, people ascribe one kind of attribute to a thing consistently thereby making it difficult for others who have had no close encounter with such a thing to have different or better views. When you continually portray something to be a certain kind of way without adding or subtracting certain details, that image sticks and this is how single stories are formed. We are told that the figurine goddess of fertility has robust breasts always and with such a perspective, we always imagine her with over flowing bossom but what we aren’t told is that her figurines are made from fine clay, neatly sculpted and coated with terra-cotta!, maybe. Single stories can also exist as a result of absence of encounter, between the conceiver and what has been conceived. It is only by coming in contact with such things that we come to know their true nature hence, our single stories become diversified. I’m a girl in a Nigerian environment where men seek to marry the women and not vice versa, where women are not strong enough, where women cannot be overly jovial with the men especially when they are not in matrimonial union. I’m gay and always happy, probably the most jovial being that ever walked the earth and if that attracts attributes such as ‘loose’ or ‘wayward’ to me, then that’s unfortunate for the jury. All things being equal, I intend to grow mentally with the TEP program. It is and has always been a medium for networking and innovation, a platform where we learn from history’s successes and new giants are born. It would therefore be erroneous to say that this year’s would be different.

  4. It is a very insightful speech, I must confess. Many people are guilty of this unconsciously. I hope it is an eye-opener. Single stories are defined by how they are told, who tells them, when they are told and how many stories are told. It is created by showing a people one thing, as only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become. It tends to create a stereotype.
    Growing up ,before I had a resolve to study law, I was made to believe that all lawyers were litigators who would go to court and slug it out till they won your case; most preferably after telling grand lies- ‘all lawyers are liar”. Conversations were usually like: So you want to become a lawyer? Hahaha, you want to be a liar.
    It was not long after I started studying law that I realized that there was more to law than was generally believed- theres the alternative dispute resolution, corporate lawyers, maritime lawyers. Basically, we transcend every field. We’re bad like that! Had it been I had looked at the legal profession solely on my religious belief; I’d have resolved not to study law because I didn’t want to get myself involved in lies. My topmost priority is making heaven. I’d probably be doing something I wasn’t passionate about because of the ‘single story’.
    Albeit, I’ve suffered firsthand from single stories. I’m quiet reserved and not exactly the best orator when marshaling my points. I’d rather write my thoughts as articles. Growing up, the former made people form opinions about me as being proud because I supposedly had ‘wealthy parents’. When in reality, we were just a regular middle-class Nigerian family and I was just another shy boy. The latter identity has caused me to be placed on some pedestal during interviews, thence more is naturally expected from me. I get remarks like ‘Aren’t you a law student, you should be more eloquent’. I guess Hollywood should do a better job at telling stories, and not make it seem like every law student is an Harvey Specter or Annalise Keatings. We’re not superhumans with capes, as we are mostly potrayed. We are also flawed. There should be a balance of stories like Chinua Achebe rightly said.
    Good thing is that I’ve only heard good stories about the bridge programme. I’ve seen testimonials of past fellows and how they are breaking new grounds in their respective fields, thanks to their experience with the Bridge Program.Thus, spurring my decision to be a part of such a life-changing institution. I’m blessed to be a part of something this grand.
    Just like I’ve been thought in Law of Contracts, there is an exception to every general rule. Not all single stories are in their entirety bad, just like what I heard about the Bridge Program. But in telling our stories, we should strive to ensure a balance.

  5. In my opinion, single stories are created when a person is exposed to one view or perception of a thing.

    I think my identity as a law student just like Oluwaseyi, makes people automatically assume I enjoy arguing and because of this they avoid getting into arguments with me as it is deemed to be my forte. Truly, I don’t just go about arguing and disagreeing with people unless absolutely necessary or for something I believe in.

    I believe the Bridge program is going to be a worthwhile program based on the reports I have received from persons who have participated before. I think the organisers are very well-ordered and efficient judging from the emails and the application process.

  6. Single stories are tales I believe everyone in one way or another is guilty of making about people,places etc. A single story as stated by Chimamanda in her talk is “ one story told over and over again about a people,and that is what they become ” hence the birth of a ‘Single Story.’ These single stories describe the overly simplistic and often false perspections we have of people or countries. They might not be necessarily false ,but they are incompelete.
    I personally am a victim of a single story. I have met people who finally have the courage to approach me say things like “ wow, for the longest time I have imagined you to be a snub with a sassy attitude ”, and I always ask why the assumption and I’m told, “ well, you only talk to some certain people and have this unapproachable aura” and every time I hear this I laugh because I have never seen myself as unapproachable but then again that’s my single story.
    My assumptions about the Bridge Program is that it is more a less a leadership platform aimed to groom we the young ones to be good fits for the global market. I’ve heard that the Co-fellows and organisers are a group of hardworking and brilliant minded people. This is my single story about the program,sometimes single stories aren’t always negative.

  7. Chimamanda’s definition of a single story is the best way to describe what a single story is. She said single stories are created”when you show a people as one thing and only one thing over and over again and that is what they become”.
    At some point in our lives I’m almost certain we’ve all fallen victims to the danger of single stories. Single stories are created from assumptions or a person’s perspective of a place or about a group of people. I don’t think single stories are lies or wrong, it’s not just the entire truth.
    People tend to think I’m unapproachable and unfriendly because I keep a straight face or look a particular kind of way and that it’s not true.
    I would say my assumption of TBP is a single story, after speaking to ex fellows, I expect the program to be about impacting leadership and enterpreneural skills.

  8. I believe each and everyone of us have at some point fallen victim to the dangers of a single story. Single stories are created by persistent and constant exposure to a single perception or view of a ‘thing’ that we become confined to the belief that that ‘thing’ can only exist that way without allowing ourselves to be exposed to opposing ideas.
    According to Chimamanda, ‘Single stories are created when people are shown a thing over and over again that such thing becomes only that in their eyes’
    Basically, single stories are created when we base our impressions and perceptions on stories we have heard over and over again that it forms the foundation of our beliefs.

    Personally, people tend to belief that I am unfriendly and unhappy because of how serious I tend to look and for the major part of my university days, it defined how they related with me. However, it was not that I was unfriendly or unhappy, it was more of the fact that being serious was my default mode and I struggled to relate with people. Those that bothered to get to know me soon realized that I was crazy and tend to laugh a lot. They bothered to look at the other sides to it because it was not that I wasn’t unhappy sometimes or trying to be unfriendly, but it was only one side of the person I was and not the entire definition.

    Based on the information I gleaned from the websites and a former fellow I spoke with, my perception of The Bridge Program is that of a grooming ground for young leaders.
    However I believe this to be a single story because though The Bridge program is a grooming ground for young leaders, it might not necessarily be what the entire program is all about.

  9. A single story is created when a conception, which is mostly bad, about a group of people or entity stays of a long period of time.

    I’m often regarded as a nerd, one who is boringly studious. This has been due to my love for books and speech for knowledge. However, I feel this isn’t true as I do love to meet new people and learn new languages when I come across someone exotic.

    My assumptions about The Bridge Program is that of Leadership. I’m mainly preoccupied with the thought of The Bridge Program aiming to build quality leaders that would impact their communities and the World.
    Also, the Cofellows and Organisers are hardworking. I have this main thought as I’m sure that it takes a great deal of hard work to run and be a fellow of The Bridge Program.

  10. A single story is created from limited a perspective, consistentency in potraying just an aspect of a people or a nation. Chimamanda stated that single story is created when you show a people as one thing over and over again and that is what they become. Single stories are created by a sterotyped mindset which is as a result of stories, tales or first impression gotten from or about the people.
    And as oluwaseyi rightly said, they are created by general assumptions.
    I was born into a clergy home of an orthodox church and there has been different versions of single stories to it.
    While some expect me to be a saint and be overtly perfect in every way, others expect me to be wild away from home since I was constrained from doing alot of things.
    As much as I am expected to be a perfect girl because of what I, (my parents) represent; I’m human and bound to make mistakes and err in alot of ways. If only they understand; offer helping hands, listening ears and comforting words in compromising times instead of criticism.
    Being constrained from alot of things which many might tag “lack of freedom” is one of the greatest things I am grateful for today and will always be.
    All the constrains, composure, ethics I was made to learn are becoming stepping stones to a fulfilling future, free and purposeful life. If only they also know that when you train a child in the right way and lead a good example, his mind and life will be inclined to it as he grows.
    Single stories in themselves are not bad because they reveal an aspect of the truth but can be dangerous when that is the only aspect focused on. it is important to engage all of the stories about a place or a person to have a balanced knowledge.
    My assumption about TBP is that it is a very wonderful and promising platform, co-fellows are great minds and potential great leaders in various sectors, then the organizers are visioners and are compelling their vision of raising a generation of great people to reality; I can only hope this is not a single story.

  11. Single stories most times are created from general assumptions, the most glaring and/or visible detail about a person or thing becomes a general assumption that then metamorphoses into ‘the truth’, thus a single story.
    I for example, am a law student. The general assumption is that law students are the smartest, the wittiest, the best liars. This is the single story of a law student, everyone would tell you this single story except a law student or a lawyer. Law students are actually not the smartest, we only read the most, we are witty because we are taught to be strategic; there is never a right or wrong answer, every rule has an exception…
    A single story narrows down one’s perspective, but sometimes knowing a single story is good. The single story I was told my friend Kitan about The Bridge Program is the reason why I’m so thrilled to be a fellow this year.

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