I have done four posts about this Ted Talk over the years – and I can’t seem to stop myself from posting it again for November Adoption Awareness Month…
I don’t think it matters if you are in an open-domestic adoption – right through to a closed international adoption – what you know about the family of birth is limited to what you have been told. (video at the end of the post.)
Chimanda Ngozi Adichie – “The Danger of the Single Story”
2010 – This is what I said in the first post…
Adoption is not part of this video but it speaks so loudly about it that every single person involved in the adoption world must hear the words in this video. Please take the time to listen to her words they are important. None of us comes with a single story, nor is one story the only story you must hear on anything.
2010 – This snippet from the next time I posted it…in November
In the talk she shows time and time again with anecdotal personal stories how our impressions and views on an individual are shaped only by what we know about one part of who they are. (corrected transcript)
She states “It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali”. It’s a noun loosely translates to “to be greater than another”. Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principal of nkali: how they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.
Power is the ability to tell the story of another person but to make it the definitive story of that person.”
As an adoptee in a closed adoption with knowledge that I would never know my family, my ancestors, my nationality I had one Single Story of them. A Single Story passed to my mom and dad from the social worker. That story consisted of four sentences. Once the court opened my records and I met my family, I learned that story had no truth to it at all. But it had been MY Single Story of my family for over 40 years. The power was held by the social worker who crafted my story, each sentence had the smallest grain of truth and a liberal helping of borrowed or changed information designed to ensure that even if I searched, with those facts I would fail.
Towards the end of the talk she states “The consequence of the Single Story is that it robs people of dignity, it makes our recognition of equal humanity difficult. It emphasises how we are different, rather than how we are similar. […]
Stories matter, many stories matter. Stories have been used to disposess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity. […]
That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”
2011 – This is what I said when I posted it again…
In my post last November on this talk, I took the time to transcribe some parts and talked about my story, or indeed the lack thereof and how it impacted me. I reread that post the other day and realized that what I did not talk about, was how much it impacted me in my teen years while I was trying unsuccessfully to incorporate what I knew of nature side – with what I knew of my nurture side.
2012 – This is what I said last year…
I think Chimanda Adichie provides the very best advice to adoptive parents in her talk. What I took away in part was – be aware that you are telling only one story of another person – tread very carefully with the terms you choose to use, and how you tell the story, and how limiting that story actually is. Recognise the power you hold over making that single story – the only story anyone hears and remembers – you don’t know all the stories – just the one story you were told.
Even if you have listened to the talk before – it is worth listening to it over again, I can’t stress that enough.