What single story have you been told that you still believe?
“Power is not just the power to tell another’s story, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When I first listened to the TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I did not yet have children in school. I did not realize how today’s history and ELA books and stories — along with free reading books — so often are lacking representation.
My youngest was just starting school when Micheal Brown was killed, and the Ferguson Protests happened, overtaking the nightly news with stories villainizing protestors.
It is striking how quickly we will share stories in this country of Black pain. Death. Trauma. How quickly we will criminalize, simplify down to a single story. To watch the unrest of BLM protests on the news in as many details as the cameras will give us.
When it comes to the murder of Black men, America is quick to share it over and over. When it comes to the murder of Black women — America is silent.
And when it comes to sharing Black JOY? We ban it.
In school, we cover slavery and the civil rights movement. I vaguely remember a few mentions of a few inventions by “former slaves” — a nod to how they had managed to move on after slavery. Almost as if, maybe, everything was fine and fixed. But no books celebrating Black Americans. Each February a few books would be brought out for Black History Month. These again were almost always stories from the same two specific time frames of civil war and civil rights. In my children’s schools today, Black History Month is not acknowledged, let alone celebrated.
My questions to you are: How often have you shared Black trauma on social media — and how often have you shared Black joy? What single story have you been told that you still believe? And what changes can you support in your community, your local schools, your social circles — to expand the narrative out of the “single story”.