The Dangers of Subscribing to the Single Story about Africa and Black People

When you hear Africa, what’s the first thing that pops in your head?

The home of black people? The home of crude, primitive men that live in caves and trees? Maybe a more refined ideology but crude nonetheless: a continent filled with poor, homeless people. Perhaps an abstract: crime, threats.

In a large percentage of the cases, the conception is usually negative. After all, the news is filled with all sorts of negative things about Africa.

As Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie puts it, most of us have been sold the single story about Africa. 

We have read from the pages of this one-sided narrative and we have subscribed to it.

That narrative extends to how we perceive black people in general. As much as we might sometimes refuse to admit it, it is evident in our bias.

It is not to say that some or most of those negative things you have heard about Africa is untrue.

But as Adichie describes it, the danger of the single story is not that it is untrue, but that it is incomplete.

It is mostly a tale of gloom and doom, but there’s a side to Africa that’s rarely revealed to the world. A side of the coin that remains pressed to the table.

It is sad to define a person by only a part of his stories. It is even worse to extend a personal narrative to a people. The fact that you’ve had a bad experience with one person doesn’t in any way imply that everyone from that community is bad.

The fact that the negatives are quick to sail across borders does not mean there are no positives. The danger of subscribing to a singular, negative narrative is that you deny every other person within that community the depth of their individualities. By default, if you have to converse or relate with one, you might find yourself approaching them with a closed mind.

The African continent is a beautiful place to visit and so are its people.

Talk about the rich cultural heritage, the hospitality of the people, the joy that flows, radiant and bright, through every heart.

The reality is that every society has all shades of people within it- there’s always the good, the bad, the ugly- and Africa is no exception to this rule.

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