The Danger of the Single Story

19 May

I absolutely love this message by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie on “The Danger of the Single Story.” She reminds us that single stories, assumptions, and stereotypes rob people of their dignity. They paint inaccurate pictures of people since by their very nature people could never be made up of one single story. Who we are is shaped over the course of our lifetime, a compilation of hundreds, even thousands of stories.

What assumptions do you make about others based on your misinformation? Based on the single story you have heard? What kind of dangerous stereotypes do you believe? Do you believe that all people in South Orange County, California drive expensive cars and live in multi-million dollar estates? Do you believe that all people from the South flaunt the confederate flag in racist ignorance? Do you believe that all French people are rude to foreigners or that all Muslims hate white people?

Do you feel some sense of patronizing pity when you think of Africans? Do you believe that the only things that come out of that radically diverse continent are poverty and despair? Or could you fathom African families enjoying dinner together and sharing a laugh?

Do you smother the “suffering pagan” with your overzealous religiosity, even out of your loving and compassionate heart? Do you feel the need to spread Westernized democracy to every corner of the world, because it is “what everyone really desires”?

I know I am guilty of listening only to the single story. Are you? The problem with this mode of thinking is that it formulates generalizations, forgetting that God is ultimately the author of people’s lives, and despite their circumstances, He can produce the unimaginable. He could produce humility in places of wealth, joy in places of despair, peace in places of violence, prosperity in places of poverty. God is a wild card. The rules don’t apply to Him. Where are you limiting God in your perceptions of others? Where are you eliminating relationships with His children because of your preconceived notions? Where are you crippling yourself from sharing His love because of your narrow world view?

Rid yourself of your single stories of people. Seek knowledge. Be informed. When you take the time to truly know the people of this world, you will be able to make Him known.

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