The single story.
It was the holiday season. The sun had set and evening calm descended upon the neighbourhood. The campus boys in the compound behind weren’t playing obnoxiously loud music. There hadn’t been any football matches during the day either; football matches that often sent their ball flying into our compound which, depending on the mood of our dogs, were licked, deflated or ignored.
My mum and elder sister were the only ones in the house with me. We were at the dinning table, probably one of those days when mum had just gotten back and we were gisting while she ate her dinner. It was a slow evening so I hadn’t told Emil to switch on the generator yet.
The soft glow from the solar-powered lamp illuminated the white walls.
The subject of our conversation must’ve flowed around perspectives for I ran upstairs to fetch my mini-laptop.
I remember setting it down on the table and clicking on Chimamanda’s Ted talk – “The danger of the single story.” – for both of them to watch.
I remember the pride that soared in my heart as Chimamanda’s steady and knowing voice filled the silence in the house.
Chimamanda’s talk on the single story is acclaimed one of the most-widely watched ted talks on youtube with 3.7 million views.
What was she saying in that talk?
How do I summarise that brilliance into a few lines here? I’d rather quote excerpts and urge you to watch the video here:
“I come from a conventional middle-class Nigerian family, and so we had, as was the norm, live-in domestic help who would often come from nearby rural villages. So the year I turned eight, we got a new houseboy. His name was Fide. The only thing my mother told us about him was that his family was very poor. And when I didn’t finish my dinner, my mother would say, finish your food, don’t you know people like Fide’s family have nothing? So I felt enormous pity for Fide’s family.
But one Saturday, we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket, made of dyed raffia, that his brother had made. I was startled. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.”
She also tells of her previous single story opinion of Mexicans.
Also, her roommates disposition to her when she was 19 and new in the U.S.
“If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, then I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals and incomprehensible people fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves, and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I as a child had seen Fide’s family“
”…all of these stories make me who I am but to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and overlook the many other stories that form me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story”
Why am I bringing this up?
It’s easy for anyone on my campus fellowship who knows me as a spirit-filled sister to think all that there is to me is something fellowship-related once I’m through with classes. It’s easy for them to think I have no opinion on politics or assume I don’t read novels. assumptions.
It’s easy for someone to view the president of my fellowship as spiritkoko and not know that he likes football, a whole lot at that, or that the P.R.O of the fellowship has a sister who models in the U.S. I’m just painting a picture. We have lives, full lives. Those lives are often viewed through the lenses of sister and brother sososo, that’s okay once your lenses admit that generally, everyone is an human being and Jesus is happy about that.
Not the single story of ”I only see X in fellowship, and X is a student, therefore brother X is made up of classes and fellowship time”.
Single story. The danger of this single story is that brother X starts to live an insecure and people-conscious life.
“…The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story”
Essentially, you must know everyone is a person and persons are subject to idiosyncrasies and a full world of ideas and passions. That your prayer secretary may be nursing the ambition to be the next governor of Oyo state(and it might not make him any less spiritual than if he’d been hoping to be the next missionary). Everyone is a person and Jesus loves them like that, Jesus planted a huge number of those passions in their hearts and Jesus is happy to see them bloom. Jesus doesn’t think they should only pray in fellowship. Jesus supports your vice-president going to the gym.
I believe when you accept it about yourself, you’re able to accept it about others too. Then you’ll stop feeling quite ashamed when someone you’ve mentored spiritually discovers you do something other than study and pray. I was self-conscious for a while until God helped me out of it.
Or worse still, you’ll stop feeling ashamed when someone knows a member of your family isn’t born again. I mean, what? Shame?
Dear friend, live, breathe, bloom, blossom. You’re more than one perspective. The single story is just that, – single.
Tell your own story. Be your own person. Own your story.
”so that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing over and over again, and that is what they become”.
What do you think? Care to share?
Freedom and light,