Danger of a Single Story

After viewing the TED Talk Danger of a Single Story, participants will discuss in pairs situations in which they have perpetuated a single story, and been the target of a single story.

Objectives

  • Students will be able to discuss some of the problems of using a single story and to identify parts of their lives impacted by a single story

Materials

Procedures

  1. Have participants watch "The Danger of a Single Story"
  2. After the video, display the following quote and question

“…to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience, and to overlook the many other stories that formed me...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.”

– For example, Adichie had a single story of Fide and his family: they were poor. That was all she knew about them, and when she saw them, that’s all she saw.

What are other examples of single stories from the video?

3. Ask the participants to answer the question above.

4. Once there have been some answers, check to make sure all participants understand what a single story is

5. Display the following question:

  • Has a single story ever been told about you? How did you know? How did it make you feel? After a small pause, also display
  • Have you ever told a single story? What did you do? How did you come to realize it was a single story?

6. Ask participants to reflect quietly on both sets of questions and make notes for 5 minutes. Explain that they will discuss their reflections with a partner in 5 minutes.

7. After 5 minutes, ask the participants to find a partner. For the next 10 minutes, each partner will share their responses to the two questions. Each partner will have 5 minutes to share.

8. After 10 minutes, bring the group back together

9. Facilitate a group discussion

  • Ask if anybody would be willing to share the results of their discussion
  • You can ask/introduce the following
    • How will you bring this concept of a single story into your life?
    • Could your single story be a stereotype?
    • Multiple stories create multiple perspectives
    • The easiest way to keep a stereotype alive is to dehumanize the other
    • Americans may view Africa as one country
    • Build your resilience by gathering more and more stories
    • Use "that's a single story" as code for "that's a stereotype you are buying into" to soften the way of saying it

10. Close the session

  • Use remarks related to the benefit of avoiding a single story. You can link these to any ideas that came out in the discussion.

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