Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disrupting the Single Story

Learning and understanding the danger of a single story has been a part of our orientation for YAGM. We addressed it again specifically in our in-country orientation. Single stories are dangerous because they only paint a piece of the whole picture of a person, people, culture, or place. And usually that single story does not even apply to all that it generally addresses. More commonly we think of single stories when we use stereotypes. We use these to categorize, but these generalizations do not apply to all, and are only a fraction of the whole story that someone walks with.

No one is immune from being single storied. I am sure everyone has had a time when someone has taken a piece of their being and single storied them. But when we live in relationships with people, we get to know them more fully, we get to disrupt those single stories and see people for who they are and create new, specific stories of people who we love and care for. And even then, we are still only telling the story from our perspective, for a person is too deep for another to fully know them and understand exactly the life that they live and experience.

But as we live and grow with others we can have stories explode and open out eyes to differences that we did not expect.

I was sitting at home knitting one morning and a visitor came by. I have met him before and we have talked, but he did not know that I could knit. When he saw me sitting on the couch, he sat adjacent to me and watched intently. He then looked up from my knitting and said “you know how to crochet?” I told him that crocheting was with one needle and knitting was with two, and I knew how to knit. He then asked if I knew how to sew too. I told him that my mom taught me when I was little and just recently my friend taught me how to knit. He looked at me and said “Oh. I didn’t think whites knew how to sew. I thought only blacks knew how to do that.”

Another time I was talking with a friend and he was laughing at me because we were talking about how technology and I are not the best of friends and how I don’t understand a lot of it. He told me that when they said someone from America was coming, he assumed that I would be attached to my phone and all up to date and whatnot with technology, and then they got me. J

In our packing list they told us to bring nice clothes, there may be weddings or funerals that we would be attending in our year. How nice is not something I have a good gauge for, and what my single story was did not assist in proper packing. In my first week at my placement site I attended a funeral, a church service (where Sunday best has been re-defined), and a Gala dinner. Each of these required nice clothes. The attendants for each of these wore very nice clothes, clothes fit for weddings or banquets. Men wore suits. Women wear dresses or skirts and a blouse and jacket.


Disrupting the single story. I am humbled and blessed when each experience comes that disrupts the single stories that we inaccurately have created to create in us a more full picture of the world in which we live. 

Here is the link to the TED talk about the danger of a single story

1 comment:

  1. Elle, your writing is as elequent as ever and you make me feel as if I am standing behind you witnessing your experiences. Thank you for sharing and I love you!

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