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article imageOp-Ed: Why The Single Story Ain't That Bad

By Jason Li     Oct 17, 2009 in World
Ms Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian author who warns about the danger of stereotype because of media-crafted 'single stories.' Why don't I agree? Well, in the competitive media world, we can't always have our cake and eat it too.
Ms Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian author who, in the video above, warns about the danger of being exposed to a ’single story’. She says because the media give us overwhelmingly two dimensional portrayals of various people groups, we are all blinded by various stereotypes. All Africans are supposed to be poor and starving, all poor people are supposed to be useless, so on and so forth.
I totally agree with her that “the worst thing about stereotypes is that they are incomplete.” Just as there is no smoke without fire, the stereotype of Africans as a backward, starving people dependent on global charity to survive another day won’t exist if there aren’t so many people in that plight.
Adichie is not disputing the factual basis of stereotypes; she’s championing for more coverage on the ‘other’ stories. Stories of entrepreneurial, middle-class Africans. Basically the goal is to shout, “There are Africans are just like you in the developed world!”
So it almost makes sense that the media should try to balance their content. How so? Should they feature more middle-class Africans with nine-to-five office jobs in the news, to prove that there are Africans who don’t need foreign aid for their next meal? Well, that’s ideal, but impractical. TV time is uber-limited (23 mins for a half-hour news bulletin), and with today’s humdrum whirring people from one activity to the next at light speed, no one has patience for such news stories.
It’s hard enough already trying to raise awareness for Africans stricken with HIV/AIDS, starvation and poverty. Now middle-class Africans who can feed themselves want a slice of the media pie? They say they’re too poorly represented and the rest of the world has inaccurate, though relatively harmless, preconceptions of them. Someone tell me how that is a bigger priority than dying orphans.
Not all stories are created equal. Yes, readers and the audience do need to be educated to critically consume media content and be aware that there are ‘other’ stories. Western schools should teach their students that Africa is a continent, comprising many countries which have a great diversity of cultures and ethnicities. Students should know that homogeneity cannot be assumed. You get rid of ignoramuses and prejudice with education, not media. The media bit will naturally improve when people are educated.
So Ms Adichie, some stories do stand out in the media, and with valid reasons. With so many things already vying for our very divided attention, I say it is okay for stories which involve real human suffering to jump to the front of the line, never mind that they cause middle-class-ego-distress.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Media stereotypes, Single story, Chimamanda adichie
 
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