“The Danger of a Single Story”

The video posted above is a 2009 TED talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie. Please watch or listen to her speech. It’s about 19 minutes long but it’s worth it.

To give a bit of background about myself – I am a Baton Rouge, LA native however I am what is known as a third culture kid (TCK). Sociologist David C. Pollock provides the following definition

A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.

My culture is made up of influences from Louisiana; Cotonou, Benin; Mbabane, Swaziland; and Den Haag, The Netherlands. My life seems a little unreal to myself at times. I don’t really get to talk about it much because I always have to pause my story to explain something. People who know me may not agree but there’s a lot I don’t say. They just know that if I ever mention anything from 1997-2005 I was either in Africa or Europe.

I said all that to say this – I know firsthand the dangers of a singular story. We’ve all seen the dangers of knowing a singular story. I could wax and wane about my life overseas but I’ll keep this post more closely related to the focus of this blog.

Black Americans are victims of a singular story. Within the Black community there is the debate of just what does it mean to be a Black person? In mainstream society, representations of Black people in entertainment and media do not help the situation. The majority of people the world over, including Black Americans, think that Black Americans are a number of negative images and derogatory statements. We are drug dealers, welfare queens, school drop outs, gangstas, prostitutes, teen mothers, dead beat dads, and hoodlums. Who is responsible for telling this story?

I can’t blame mainstream media, no matter how much I want to. WE tell this story to ourselves. WE grow up believing that we are what we see on television. That families like The Huxtables aren’t possible. That we are oppressed. That we are failures.  That we all live the lives portrayed on reality television or those “urban lit” books that I do not read or support.

There are multiple stories. Stories that have been lost. I’m tired of hearing about “when my ancestors were enslaved they took our history.” That is an excuse. When my ancestors were, enslaved they began a new history. I’m on a mission to unearth it.

I challenge you readers of all races … what defines you? Are you a victim of a singular story?


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