When does a story become dangerous?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her Ted Talk, The Danger of a Single Story, analyzes the detrimental affects that one single story has on another’s identity and culture. As we grow up, we often are taught one thing in one certain way and hardly ever another. For instance, we learn about the lives of foreigners, like Adichie who is a Nigerian woman, only briefly by one person with generally one skewed and second hand view.

In Karen Coats’ essay, Identity, she points out that many philosophers and socialists view identity as something constructed through what is taught or learned. Coats specifically exemplifies John Locke and his assertion that the “developmental and educational process of children must be carefully controlled and scrutinized, because lessons absorbed in childhood remain forever imprinted on the self unless scrupulously interrogated,” (2011). This can also be referred to from Adichie’s Ted Talk as identities and beliefs should be taught in many or specific ways in order to help people truthfully understand an identity or topic. This quote also brings upon the idea that notions of others need to be fully examined by an individual to create a truthful belief rather than relying on a single story or teaching of that other.

In Aunt Mary’s Picture Book, Little Eva Flower of The South, shows this idea of the danger of a single story. As the book goes on, Eva is presented as a slave loving, young girl who has daily interaction with the enslaved people on her father’s plantation. These enslaved people were shown to love Eva and much of the time shown to be enjoying themselves. The problem with this depiction of slavery is that the hard times that the enslaved endured were never shown. Eva is shown as a helpful young girl who seems to take pity on slaves and in return tries to help them by teaching literacy. This is seen as a selfless act rather than a crucial one for slave survival. Due to this depiction of slavery, if a child were to read only this book, there would be nothing wrong with slavery to them, as it is shown as not harmful.

4 thoughts on “When does a story become dangerous?”

  1. I have been shown this article in many of my classes because it is such an important thing to take note of. It is actually considered racist to portray slaves as happy and content with their lives. However, as long as they weren’t free, they were not happy. In the Uncle Tom’s Cabin story, the author noted that Tom felt bad for his slave owner’s debt, so he didn’t want to run away. Like you said, hearing this would make children think slavery wasn’t bad. Also, in high school, history classes were taught to show pride in America and down play bad moments such as slavery that occurred in our nation. It was hardly ever that we got two sides of the story. Usually we heard it from a white male professor or writer.

  2. I really liked this video! I think the comparison between this video’s discussion of the single story and Little Eva’s story is really interesting. The books we read as children have such an impact on who we are and what we think about things. Your last line perfectly sums that up. This women does a good job highlighting the issue with the single story.

  3. I absolutely love this Ted talk. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an absolutely incredible speaker and truly gets the point across about not listening to just one story. She helps the listeners learn to listen to more and do research, while not making them feel ashamed as she has also been someone to only hear a single story.

  4. Our beliefs often come from only a few people, such as our parents, when we are growing up. I think our education system has also played a huge role in the way we perceive others as well. We will read something in school and many times only get one side of an argument or with a racist point of view. As children, we are unable to identify that what we are reading is racist and as a result, our views become very similar to those of what we read.

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