The delivary of this speech is so gracious and she articulates herself with such poise that her message comes across perfectly. I love the way she does not try any kind of phone sturvs which is so easy to do when you are confronted by foreigners, she speaks effortlessly like a true Nigerian.
The danger of a single story she says, is not that it is inacurate but that it is incomplete. She starts with the story of her houseboy Fide, who as a child she had labelled as being poor and nothing else. Upon discovering that his family were talented weavemakers, she seems shocked that they could be something so much more than the tag "poverty". This is a single story. And this is something that we all do in someway or the other. Stereotypes are usually formed for a reason, but they represent just a part of that people and when we forget this, then we have a problem.
Although she focuses on the danger of a single story globally, I think it is just as relevant in Nigeria because of our diversity. In Nigeria for example, we say that Yorubas are loud and party-lovers, Igbos are greedy and traders and hausa people are lazy and uneducated. Now this may be true to some extent but it is incomplete. .
I live in the North, and I am usually shocked by the ignorance of Southerners and Lagosians about life in the North. People have asked me the strangest questions like isnt there sharia there? are there any clubs or bars? how can you live there if you cannot speak hausa? so you guys have dstv in the north? i didnt know kaduna had an international airport? isnt everyone there a muslim? i didnt know hausa people were rich too? They are surprised to find that Northerners have more distinct tribes than any other reigion of Nigeria, and the Fulanis, Gwari, Boko, Ataka and Barke tribes to name a few are not hausa.
This is the single story of the north. It is only when you come abroad that we all claim to be Nigerians. Once you are in Nigeria, we all identify with sub-cultural and religious groups and reigions and have a single story of all the other reigions. I have been blessed to know both the North and the South-western parts of Nigeria well, but upon coming to the U.K I have had the chance to meet alot of people from the South-south and Eastern part of Nigeria. I then realised that I also had a single story for them as well. I thought it was just divided into Igbos and non Igbos, who were insignificant tribes, but I was soo mistaken. I now have friends who are Urobos, Delta-Igbos, Calabar, Edo, Andoni, Ibibio, Ijaw, Igbira to name a few and are just as proud as any majority tribe. My single story was that everyone from that reigion was igbo, and therefore a trader, loves money, loved rituals, were catholic and usually uneducated.(I must add that Nollywood playes a BIG part in forming these steryotypes).
It sounds terrible now, but alot of Nigerians still think like this. You see as much as Nigerians travel all over the world, we do not explore our own country. I am ashamed to say I have only been to 6 states out of a possible 36(kaduna, Lagos, Jos, Kano, Ibadan, Kwara). But the majority of city Nigerians have only been to 2, their village and Lagos/Abuja/Port-Harcourt. I must say that Lagosians are paticularly terrible with this, as they feel like life begins and ends in Lagos.
But a number of my northern classmates had also never left the north and had a single story of Lagos/the south of being a crime ridden, immoral, traffic jammed jungle (which is not far from the truth lol). They also see the south-south as a place over-flowing with oil, oil-money, kidnappers, and shell workers.
You see Chimamanda brings to light the fact that you cannot engage properly with a person or a place without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The single story robbs people of their dignity because it focuses on how we are different as opposed to how we are similar. According to Achebe we need a "balance of stories".
A typical example is to think of the first 3 words you think of when you think of Iraq. For most people in the western world, and average Nigerians, it is War, Oil and Islam. But have we ever stopped to think about the millions of Iraqis that are just living their lives, waking up in the morning to go to work, or the market or kids going to school. We have a single story of Iraq gotten from CNN. The first time I went to America when I was 13, I was schocked to find that not all the black people were wearing chains, rapping or playing basketball with 5 baby mamas. I had a single story of black america gotten from MTV.
I have a friend who studied in Russia, and I was shocked to hear the stories he had about the everyday Russians. Yes they are some racists and nazis but mostly they are nice and respectful people. I had a single story of Russia gotten from their History.
She concludes that when we reject the single story and realise that there is never one, we regain a kind of paradise. Think about it!