Essay on Danger of a Single Story: Chimamanda Adichie's 2009 TED Talk

Published: 2023-10-13
Essay on Danger of a Single Story: Chimamanda Adichie's 2009 TED Talk
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Stereotypes Human behavior
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1819 words
16 min read


The "Danger of a Single Story" is a 2009 TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie, a young Nigerian author. Adichie takes 20 minutes to outline the impact of the British narrations on her as a child, citing that knowing just one story, created in her the danger of only knowing about a single group (Adichie, 2009). According to Adichie (2009), knowing only one story about people or something establishes stereotypes, which are usually not accurate, incomplete, and only make one story become the only story. After viewing this video, I thought about my own experience of a single account. As an African American, there are individual stories that are put on me. These single sorties have shaped some of the identities in the African American society, and have made what whites believe about blacks, impact how they choose to engage them. As I thought about these, the following dawned on me.

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What Speaker’s Experience Mean to Me

As I listened to Adichie’s experience, I remember when I went to class, and a black male student wearing a hoodie was crying. Adichie, in her TED talk, recalls her experience with her roommate when she moved to America for the first time. Her roommate had asked her how she knew English, without realizing that Adichie's father was a professor, and her mother was an administrator and that Adichie had the privilege of growing up in a Nigerian home where English was a primary language (Adichie, 2009). Based on this, Adichie shares how people only have a single-story about different things through small stories she narrates, including how they view Africa, to be land of beautiful landscapes but also full of violence, war, and in need of AIDS relief (Adichie, 2009). On this day, when the student was crying, it was the initial day of spring break, and everyone in school had opted to attend the Trayvon Martin rally wearing a hoodie. Students listened to the speaker's narrations of the black killings beginning from black homes in Florida to Oregon, Portland. Some two black students, including Teddy Webb and Ryan Turner, took the microphone and talked about how black killing made them feel endangered. I recall them saying they wore the Ninja hoodies because they wished they could go back to a place in time when they did not have to worry about walking about the streets of America without feeling like someone had the right to shoot them based on this dressing. I remembered Adichie's speech, and it occurred to me that black males were endangered because white cops only had a single story about their hoodies.

Theories or Course Concepts That Help Me Understand My Experience

As listened to these stories by the black students, I recalled the poem by Daniel Beaty that laments the "lost brilliance of black men who are crowded in prison cells" (Beaty, 2010). This poem helped me understand that as a person, I had a moral obligation to fight injustice, the notions of anger and rage, and birthplaces and expose these to validate the pain that was faced by black males each day. Everyone in America requires a glimpse into the history of the African Americas, focusing on their way of life other than just the oppression, slavery, and resistance that is too often taught. Such insights will reduce stereotyping African American males based on single stories that make them targets.

The article, “How The Hoodie Became A Racially Charged Garment” by Jeremy Lewis that suggest that most white cops believe that some African American males wear hoodies to keep their faces hidden when they are committing crimes, and this has made the public to think that the hoodie is associated to wayward youths and hoodlums (Lewis, 2014). In the mid of the 90s, the hoodie was associated with the murderous Ted Kaszynski, a Unabomber that was spotted by the police wearing a hoodie and sunglasses (Lewis, 2014). People have forgotten that hoodies are just another style, fashion, and a way of staying warm and dry. They have chosen to dwell on the wrong sides of the hoodie based on a single story of a murderer.

Through reading the essay "Just Walk On By: Black Men and Public Places" by Brent Staples hat were published in 1986, I came to realize that the story is still relevant today based on its ability to alter the public space in ugly ways, primarily through the approach it focuses on the presence of the African American man (Staples, 1986). The theory enrages and saddens me since it has been more than three decades since it was written, and yet people like George Floyd are still treated in the same manner as the narrator.

Obasogie & Newman (2016), outline the accounts of officer-involved civilian deaths and the Black lives matter movement. They suggest that most republicans have the notion that the police are positive in their undertakings, that they are just. They support police militarization and use of force, approving racial and ethnic profiling in crime prevention. They also believe that there is a war on cops through protests and social movements. All these beliefs are based on the single idea that they have on the goodness of the police in protecting the nation since most evil-doing by the police tend to be protected by the law.

Casanova & Webb (2017), on the “Tale of The Two Hoodies”, outline the events of Trayvon Martin walking home from a local store, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and chatting with his friend on his cell phone. Zimmerman, an officer, notices Martin and calls the police suspecting that he might be involved in recent robberies. The rest of the details that that led to Trayvon dying of a gunshot are unclear since only one person survives to tell the story.

Lesson Learned from The Experience

From Adichie’s experience, I learned that single stories give people a single notion of defining a person or place, rather than getting to discover the complexity of that person or place (Adichie, 2009). I realize that the experience of each person is not as simple as others may perceive them to be; hence, each one of us needs to reject the single-story and seek to know what the real stories are. Seeing the black students cry showed me how far we have gone as people hurt others of equal needs. Those who resist against and view blacks as criminals should learn to invite them for various events and forums, learn their stories, and know them before judging and labeling them based on how they dress. I had also learned that there were many instances when I treated my peers and strangers from other languages badly based on single stories I knew or heard about them.

Moving Forward

Moving on, I take the initiative of trying to educate everyone I meet on the idea of rejecting the single stories that they know about people and recreating their notions by seeking to learn more about people. From every single thing that I know about the history of black American’s and the fact that hoodies are not signs of animosity behavior but just another way of fashion and protection from cold, I seek to write more articles that will give others insights and create awareness.

Impact to My Thinking and Practice

Adichie’s experience changes my understanding of culture and ethnicity and helps me find an authentic cultural voice. Adichie impacts knowledge on her audience by explaining the misunderstanding and limited notions of the universe humorously through sharing her family's encounter with Fide (Adichie, 2009). The way Adichie makes her audience her close friends rather than just people she lectures changes the way I make presentations, allowing me to be relatable with mu audience (Adichie, 2009). Although I have some books that make me empathize with the black males in America, Adichie challenges me to be more open to opening up myself to other stories from other places.

Applying These Ideas to the Future

In the future, I want to apply the power of storytelling to each presentation that I make on race and oppression of minority groups, to make a difference, impact others, and change lives. Adichie uses her storytelling to pass her message, which I need to ensure comes first if I wish to capture this compelling style as a speaker (Adichie, 2009). Adichie utilizes many different small stories to share the central message itself. I can ensure that I just don't tell people what they should do or know in my presentations, but instead, beautifully combine my experiences to get the attention of my audience.

Opportunities for Future Growth or Engagement

Firstly, everyone in America, including students, white cops, and African Americans have the opportunity to reflect on the power of assumptions and whether the assumptions they make about others is positive or negative. Educators must engage learners on how assumptions they make about each other are based on stereotypes.

Secondly, there are opportunities for engaging children on the dangers of stereotypes in their lives and society from as early as grade three. To start creating in them a different story than the one our ancestors established, which aimed at discriminating against other races. Children can be taught how not to make judgments about each other before getting to details.

Thirdly, each person can reflect on the helpfulness and harmful nature of stereotyping from government officials to everyday citizens. The government can start by changing laws that allow discrimination of certain people based on a single idea of who they are (Smiley & Fakunle, 2016). Through specific change sin legislation, every other person will change their mindsets about others, including the evil notion they have on minority groups.


Adichie provides distinct insights on the danger of having one perspective about a particular cultural group, ethnicity, or person. This is because such notions are the causes of the assassination of African Americans in the black land that results in rioting and social disorganization. Everyone has an opportunity to read more stories to get equipped with knowledge that will reduce stereotypes and result in harmonious living.


Staples, B. (1986). Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space.

Obasogie, O. K., & Newman, Z. (2016). Black lives matter and respectability politics in local news accounts of officer-involved civilian deaths: An early empirical assessment. Wis. L. REv., 541.

De Casanova, E. M., & Webb III, C. L. (2017). A tale of two hoodies. Men and Masculinities, 20(1), 117-122.

Smiley, C., & Fakunle, D. (2016). From “brute” to “thug:” The demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America. Journal of human behavior in the social environment, 26(3-4), 350-366.

Adichie, C. (2009, July). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story [Video file]. Retrieved from

Beaty, D. (2010, Feb 16). Run Black Man Run (video file).

Lewis, J. (2014, Dec 9). How the Hoodie Became a Racially Charged Garment.

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