The Single-Story Fallacy

Brad M. Griffin | Feb 2, 2011

Our friend and FYI Advisory Council member Albert Tate recently recommended this TED talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie about The danger of a single story. In it Adichie shares about her own way of writing as a child in Nigeria, in which she created stories about white children doing things white children typically did in the stories she read.

In Adichies own words, the discovery of African authors saved me from living a single story. She goes on to share about the misunderstandings of others who have encountered her and made assumptions about her and her culture. Were all at risk of hearing only one storyabout ourselves, our people, and others who are not our people. When we do, we risk missing out on the beauty of Gods creativity. We also risk using our own power in ways that oppress. We rob people of their dignity by forcing them into our set of assumptions about them based on the story we know.

This danger reminds me of the way we often approach short-term missions (something our friend Dave Livermore has helped us think about more helpfully), but also about the way we approach students in our ministry and the kids who live down the block. We are guilty of living single stories. Its a lot less work and more efficient than listening to stories, getting to know kids for who they are, and considering the ways they break out of the story weve pushed on themor on ourselves.

Thankfully, stories can also heal, humanize, and restore dignity. When we reject the single story, we can begin to hear and tell different stories, and help kids share their own.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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