Friday, February 28, 2014

TED talk: "The danger of a single story" - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

I want to share with you a TED talk I listened to this morning. It's called "The danger of a single story" and was given by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi.

If you don't have ~19 minutes to spare, the short version is that she warns that when only a single story is told about a person or a country, it greatly limits the perspective and can result in misunderstandings. I really liked how she said, "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story."

This really reminded me (among other things) about my experience in Mexico. "Telling other stories" is one of the main reasons I blog. Yes, the stories on the news about drug cartels and violence in Mexico and undocumented immigrants making their way to and living in the U.S. are (usually) true. However, it's a very incomplete vision of Mexico. That's why I want to share my experiences here and add to the collection of stories: culture, history, travel, food, holidays, etc. Granted, it's based on my experiences and from my perspective (a white, female U.S. citizen living, studying, and traveling in Mexico), so these stories won't "complete" the vision of Mexico either. However, I hope to "add to the collection" and that readers can not only follow along with what I'm doing in Mexico, but also learn something new.

It also made me think of how I'm perceived as a U.S. citizen here in Mexico. Granted, this varies greatly person to person and, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi said in her talk, there are more stories available about the U.S. However, there are certain stories that sometimes dominate the conversation. I've heard, for example, that "all Americans are racist and anti-immigration." I have been asked if I eat McDonalds and other fast food regularly in the U.S. (no, I do not). I have also had a handful of now friends tell me that previously they didn't like gringos or that when they first met me they had no interest in getting to know me better when they found out I was a gringa. They had formed opinions based on the stories they knew. Based on our interactions and friendship, they told me that I have given them a different perspective. I don't represent everything in my country or all U.S. citizens, but I've added new stories to their repertoire.

I'd like to think that by truly experiencing and learning about Mexico and sharing some of my stories with others, both about Mexico on the blog and as a U.S. citizen representing, to some extent, my country here in Mexico, that I am living up to my responsibility as a global citizen and as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.


  1. Many thanks for posting!! JimK Rotary D7690 Gate City Rotary