The Danger of a Single Story

Who here is sick and tired of other people's ignorant and misinformed ideas of Africa? Well, you are not the only one.

In the weeks leading up to my holiday in Ghana, I was hit by Ghana-fever and I couldn't stop talking about it. I drove everyone crazy with Ghana this and Ghana that. After ten years since my last holiday in the Land of Gold, a trip back to the motherland was well over due. So you can imagine my excitement once I had actually paid for my ticket. I remember a few weeks before my holiday in Ghana, I was at work when a dress in the stock room, waiting to be marked down and placed on the sale rack, caught my eye.

Mmm, I thought. This dress is not actually that bad. In fact, it will go down nicely in Ghana. It's a good price too, and if you take away the staff this time I was grinning from ear to ear.

So after my shift, I took the dress to my manager so I could buy it. Needless to say, she wasn't as enthusiastic about my decision to buy the dress. "Why are you buying this god-awful dress?" she asked.
"Cos, I like it", I was determined to stand my ground. "Plus, it will be perfect for clubbing in Ghana". She responded by giving me a puzzled look and saying "are there clubs in Ghana? I thought it was just mud huts and fig leaves".

Now, think about all the times someone has said something to piss you off, all the times someone has treated you like rubbish, and all the times you were enraged by something you saw. How did you feel? Well, that was exactly how I felt at that moment.

I knew there and then that what I really wanted to say to her could cost me my job, so instead, I took a deep breath and said, "why don't you educate yourself, so you don't say something like that again". Then it occurred to me, that all the images had seen and all the stories she had ever heard about Africa were of poverty, corruption, war and death. She had probably never been told that Africa was the richest land in natural resources, or that the world's oldest university is in Egypt. The story she had heard of Africa was the one not told by its own people. But the one that she had been told by the history books and by the media. "Anyway, it's not your fault", I muttered under my breath.

That is the danger of a single story. When somebody tells your story for you, and you have no say in how it is told, the truth becomes distorted. Let me leave you a clip of Chimamanda Adichie , the author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. In it, she explains the danger of a single story in a more elaborate way. It's a bit long, but please click on the title of this post, which will lead you to the clip, and watch it to the end. There is a lot to be learnt.


8 opinionated people have something to say:

Nita said...

*tut tut*
My response would be- No we don't have clubs, we usually dance around fires naked..and yeah we've got mud huts for sale. You want one?
I realised that as well, people see & hear about poverty and corruption, they so need some education quickly :)

Myne Whitman said...

The real danger of a single story. I do think your manager was taking the piss.

akaBagucci said...

you know i find it increasingly difficult to accept that people who talk and act like that do not know the facts.. surely everyone who pays a TV license watches TV and sees news stories that do not show huts on TV!

Afrocentric said...

@ Nita lol! That is so something my mum would say. But is true. When you respond in that way you make them feel awkward and stupid.

@ Myne Whitman you should hear half of the foolishness that come out of people's mouths at work. What my manager said is miniscule in comparison.

@akaBagucci some people do not want to find out the facts. Asking someone to educate themselves about the truth requires too much brain activity from them so they would rather stay ignorant. How sad!

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely correct about the single story. We're overloaded with all kinds of information and misinformation; it is very difficult to stay up to date on everything. It's even more difficult when the major media outlets are controlled by a few powers who are partial to their own news (ignoring other countries).

People from places which don't have equal access to broadcast media have a bigger challenge getting their side of the story across.

That's why recent developments with the expansion of Al-Jazeera to other countries is really refreshing.

And blogs are helpful too :)

Nsoromma...Child of the Heavens said...

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Girl, u know what my reaction would have been. It's not even ignorance alone, the bare-faced cheek! What on God's good earth made her think sayign such a thing was acceptable. No, sorry I have no time to entertain stooooooopid people. KMT, Mchew!

Thirty + said...

I love your response, but I must agree with Bagucci, in this day and age of the WORLD WIDE WEB surely the single story can easily be checked out. I think she was just being cheeky.

Friday's Afro said...

i have to agree that most people are not that ignorant these days, don't they go sharm-el-sheikh on easy jet? yes! haven't they seen pictures of south africa advertising the world cup? yes! can't they type in 'ghana' into google images and see more than mud huts etc? yes! IDIOTS! They're just being silly because WE know that all men in scotland have ginger hair and wear skirts and all londoners wear bowler hats....

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