First topic I thought to write about when I started blogging. Just never got round to writing on it. I was discussing recently with a family friend and another friend (different occasions) and this same issue came up. I boned again. Yesterday a friend shared a link on Facebook, Chinamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story. Guess that was a “confirmation”. Lol. Long and short of the video is what sterotyping has done to us. I must say I love the fact that she didn’t use the word Sterotype; guess that’s the difference between writers and the rest of us. They can think up more attractive words and phrases.
We all have our single story. Many of them infact. Stories, experiences, e.t.c that have shaped the way we think and act about issues, people, our reaction to suitations and circumstances. Stories our mothers told us. Yes, 90% of the time, they do the story telling. Fathers too tell theirs but mothers have the medal when it comes to telling stories. And some how, these stories have come to shape our thoughts, action and reactions to people most especially.
Take for example; tribalism in Nigeria. I can write a book on stories my mum told me and stories I have heard about other tribes in Nigeria. God help the Igbos. From the way they treat their wives especially when the husband dies to the Alaba market issues and more recently kidnapping, a book can be written. Forgetting the fact that even amongst us Yorubas, there are a number of “tribes” who treat the wives worse upon the death of the husband. Forgetting that there are families and villages in Igboland who treat the wives well. Forgetting that Yorubas also “work” at Alaba market. Forgetting that even here in Lagos, babies are being kidnapped. Story for another day.
Anywayz I must confess that I broke the chains of tribalism a long time ago much to the chagrin of my mum and especially my aunty. Doesn’t help that my mum said 2… yes 2 of her friends told her they dreamt that they saw me wearing the “george”; the wrapper… So they concluded I was going to marry an Ibo man. Mumsie calls me and warns me not to think of it. Wahala.. I have a lot of Ibo friends. Infact my best friend is Ibo… I would def wear a george when she is getting married (I have a thousand times pictured myself wearing the george). Guess they never thought of that. Think I made matters worse, cause anytime this issue comes up; I tell her I aint even looking for an Ibo man, Itsekiri, Kalabari or Uroboho would do.
Or when I told her I wanted to serve in Calabar. The first question she asked was “is he from there? Is that where he stays?” *smh*. Or the days my aunty decides to ask who I am chatting with or who I was talking to on the phone, unfortunately for her, it is always a non-Yoruba person. Next thing I hear is “if you insist on going this way, me I wouldn’t come for your wedding”. Hmmmm. Truth be told, stories about other tribes (especially Ibos) make me scared, but I haven’t seen anything different amongst my people. So why bother?
Like I said, these stories and experiences (some of which most of us never even experienced ourselves; it is what people tell us we believe especially if the person talking is older) go along way in shaping us. Another single story. I grew up being told never to accept anything from a guy. Shoot me. Yes. Sad but that’s what I was told. Not my mum this time though. Cousins, uncles, family friends. I heard enough of “you see what happened to so and so chic (and def you would know the chic), it was because she collected this and this from a guy. When he came back to ask her she had to pay him back somehow”. So my watchword became “Never collect something you are sure if the person comes back to ask you, you wouldn’t be able to pay back especially if it is a guy”. More like never let a guy pay for anything. The statement isn’t entirely false in itself but in that context, I backed away from gifts of whatever sorts from even close male friends who would never ask me to do something I wouldn’t do. I made up my mind not to be in a suitation where someone would ask me to repay or give back something he gave me. Till the day I asked a friend for money. I was on my way to his place to pick up something, apparently no fuel in the car and the driver didn’t say anything.
Since I wasn’t stopping to buy anything, I didn’t take my purse or my bag. So am stuck mid-way. I call him, tell him what the issue was. He meets me where the car stopped…. with fuel in a jerry can (he didn’t give me the money). I gauged how much fuel it was and when I got back home, picked up my purse and went back to his place…. To give him the money. He was so upset, didn’t collect the money. I got back and called another friend and told her what happened and guess what. She tongue-lashed me. Seriously. That incident got me thinking. I had actually let my guard down and had once allowed a guy to pay for some stuff for me (okay, yes he was asking me out). 2 days later, a friend of his mentioned that afterall, he bought so and so for you. Trust me, I immediately matched up to the guy and gave him the exact amount he spent. Now, I still think that single story shaped the fact that even till now, though I now recieve gifts from guys and allow them to pay, a part of me still wants to pay for my stuff myself when am out with a guy… I think it shaped the fact that I think guys should let chics also pay when they go out, buy things with their own money for both of them…
I quite identify which Chinamanda’s first single story. The first “story” I tried to write was titled “The millionaire’s daughter” with a character named Jessica. Am so sure there is a book with that title but like she said because of the kind of books I read, I believed every book must have a foreign name; foreign characters. Infact, I had a pen name which definately wasn’t Nigerian… what we call here Christian names (see justification), because I didn’t believe anybody would want to read a book that had a Nigerian as author. I believed we were made to read Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwensi because we were in Nigeria. Their books def didn’t sell outside that why we read them here.
Or my cousin’s roommates single story about Nigeria or better still, Africa (as quite a number of Americans see Africa as a country) as a place where people live on trees, stay in front of the President’s house every Wednesday to browse, wearing next to nothing. I also have a single story of Americans. Illiterates, who don’t know what is happening outside their state not to mention their country. Especially the whites. Who believe nothing good can come out of anything black. But have met a couple of them and am amazed how they think. Sterotype.
We all have our single stories. What we have to remember is that while the events, circumstances, suitations, stories, experiences that shape our single stories “might” be true, it can’t 100% true. There would be those that defy such sterotypes. We need to view each person as different; as an individual and not categorise. Because I saw someone who didn’t drive well and was female. Two friends had the same experience so I conclude that ALL FEMALE DRIVERS CAN’T DRIVE; they shouldn’t be allowed to drive (Arshavin beware). Sorry had to use that example. For all you know, it could be a man behind the wheels. Or because I was jilted by a guy means all guys are the same. Once again I use WE, cause I am also guilty.
May God help us.