Chimamanda Nigoze Adichie’s ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ is a wonderful example of how to approach diversity in a public speech, writing, representation and life.
Her message – no cultural group, language group, or ethnicity, can be reduced to one story; for if they are this is reductionist and stereotyping. This is limiting and disempowering.
And even within one person, there is more than one story, one dimension. Each of us are multifaceted.
What I especially enjoy about this classic presentation, is that she uses humorous anecdotes and points to her own failings, and then challenges herself and audience to do better, and rise to the realisation of what diversity means – especially for those of us who write and tell stories.
Ignorance is tackled with humour too, when people call Africa a country, and ignore it is a collection of countries all with different stories within. And there are people who assume she doesn’t know what a stove is as if all Africans cook on open fires.
I especially love the opening of this talk where she speaks about writing about snow and ginger beer, without knowing they are at all, and never experiencing them, and then finding her voice, is to write of the things around her.
Although she does long to taste ginger beer.
As for me, I remember being constantly mistaken for an Overseas Student at University, even with my obviously Tasmanian accent.
Not all situations can be approached with humour, and deep hurt can be felt, and triggered by recalling all the times that being a person of colour has meant I can’t do something my fair skinned husband can do. He has really seen first hand some of the things I have been through, or experienced them because he is with me.
Furthermore he is lucky enough that he really does know some of how I feel because he has lived somewhere where he has directly felt it too by living somewhere he was in the minority. He knows what it is to live with poverty, without electricity and to stand out because of skin colour and accent.
So how do we speak up, fight back, ask for equality in the way we are treated?
How do we ensure we choose virtues such as love and are not held back by fight and flight responses?
How do we move forward and not withdraw from stressful situations into a cocoon of safety?