As I watched this, I felt like she was speaking my truth. Stories are powerful tools that cultivate our minds and our understanding of the world around us. World-renowned novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, sheds light on how literature can have a mass impact on how we view ourselves and the world around us.
Adichie explains that the Igbo word ‘nkali’ (a noun) losely translates to mean ‘to be greater than another.’ This concept and associated power has a profound impact on stories of the world. She explains that human beings have the power to decide how stories are written and told, how frequently, and how many.
A few years ago, I did a cultural presentation with a first-grade class. A little boy looked at me in fear and said, “You’re brown, my mother told me to never trust a brown person.” This was his dangerous single story. As I watched his embarrassed teacher leave the classroom expecting me to handle the situation on my own, I smiled and asked him a couple of questions.
Could I have a handshake? Yes (he shook my hand).
Did that feel scary? No.
If you got hurt do you think I would try to help you? Yes.
If I got hurt do you think you would try to help me? Yes.
I smiled and said, “See, I’m a nice teacher who does have brown skin and I promise you that my job is to make sure that you feel safe.” I thought to myself, I can’t wait to meet your mother someday.
Think about the dangerous single stories that you’ve been told, read, or taught. How have they affected your true self or perspective on the world or a group of people? How are you sharing your stories with your children? We all have ‘nkali.’ It is up to all of us to use it for positive change.