Growing up in late 70’s and early 80’s the lens I was taught through was the one of the dominant culture. That in which many things are still taught through here in Regina, and likely most of Canada. My books, movies and stories, were very much single storied. As Chimamanda Adichie told of the single stories she lived I could relate, not to the exact stories, but the stereotypes that develop from the single stories.
I don’t remember having many books about cultures other than my own. When there was a character that was of different culture, they were almost always presented negatively. They were the villains, inept or in need of rescue.
I was teen during the Ethiopian famine, it was big news. Celebrities were getting together to hold benefits and record songs (Do they Know its Christmas) to help Ethiopia. A noble cause, to help people suffering due to natural environmental events. I share this because I think that some of the single stories carry on for years because of the media and lack of a conclusion. I wonder sometimes if the perception of Africa being poor and destitute comes because we still have that narrative which is renewed every time we hear the song. People share their knowledge of the song, and that is perhaps taken as a situation that still is, because most people don’t research what they hear. The situation in my memory seemed to just fade away with no clear resolve. I think that also says a lot about what we find important to cover as well. If the drought resolved itself naturally well there was no big “rescue” by usually white people, so it is not news. If it just faded away with no clear resolution, it is easy for people to continue to buy into the stereotypes. With our social media today, I see things cropping up from 10 years ago and people are quick to respond and jump on the band wagon with out checking dates, and facts.
I think as teachers we need to be aware of inadvertently promoting single stories. I think often of how we are taught how important learning about Residential Schools and Treaties are. I agree they are but if we are only teaching about this part First Nations history we are promoting a single story, under the guise of inclusive ed. We need to take our teaching further, by talking about all the different aspects of First Nations cultures and incorporating those aspects into all our subjects all year and not just teaching Treaty Ed as a single unit. We also need to provide a variety of books for students, not just ones that talk about specific issues that are culturally related. We need to provide stories that have diverse main characters and have our First Nations students and all our students represented doing everyday things, not just special occasion events. We need to make sure that we are representing First Nations people (and all other cultures) who are successful, and not just because they over came tragic circumstances. In doing this I feel it gives us many stories. We see how rich and deep everyone is.