Thanks for your presence and participation in today’s class (Wed, Jan 18th)
The attached “Reflection Questions” provide you the opportunity to reflect on the TedTalk — “The Danger of a Single Story” — that we viewed in class today. It also provides you with the opportunity to review the other content in today’s class.
[Remember that, if you need additional time to complete any of the coursework involved in this lesson, just send me an email requesting an extension.]
Download the first document posted below.
I’m also posting/emailing:
— the transcript of the talk, in case you would like to re-read any portion of it — and/or share it with others in your life whom you think might be interested
— the handout about “6 Ways to Break Your Implicit Bias patterns”
Type in your responses in the “Daily ‘Reflection Questions'” handout.
“Save” the completed document.
Then go to the “Assessments” heading for this course, open up the “Assignments” section, and submit it into the folder entitled, “Daily ‘Reflection Questions’ — Intro Unit (Lesson Three)”.
Note: if you have difficulty submitting the document into that “Assignment” folder, you can email the document to me as an attachment. (My email address is: k..firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note that there is a separate “Assignment” related to this Lesson.
Daily “Reflection Questions” (Introductory Unit – Lesson Three)
due by Saturday, January 21st
Introductory Note: This document contains information related to the Learning Activities that we engaged in
during today’s class.
Learning Activity #1 is required.
The other three Learning Activities are “optional”, in terms of writing responses to the question(s) that each of
them contains. However, I strongly encourage you to at least read through and reflect on:
Learning Activity #2, which explains how the Ted Talk about “The Danger of a Single Story” relates to
the concept of “implicit bias”
Learning Activity #4, which refers to the handout about “6 Ways to Break Your Implicit Bias patterns”
And if you choose to write responses to one or more of these “optional” Learning Activities, I promise to read
through, reflect on, and write a response to what you’ve written.
Learning Activity #1: The Danger of a Single Story (total length – ½ page minimum)
The following questions are based on the TedTalk that we watched in class today entitled, “The Danger of a
I’m attaching a transcript of the talk – and pasted the link to the talk below – so that you can re-read and/or re-
watch it . . . and/or so that you can share it with others in your life whom you think might be interested.
Question #1: What thoughts, feelings, and/or questions do you have in response to this TedTalk? (6 lines
minimum – 12 point font)
Question #2: How do the messages of her talk relate to your life experience? (Suggestion: Think about
whether you’ve ever had the experience of realizing that you had an image/idea about someone else that was too
limited – and/or whether you’ve ever had the experience of having someone else having an image/idea about
you that was too limited) (6 lines minimum – 12 point font)Learning Activity #2 (optional): The concept of “implicit bias”
One of the first points that Chimamanda Adichie makes is about “how impressionable and vulnerable we are in
the face of a story, particularly as children.”
One of her examples was about how the first stories she wrote as a child were about people “who were white
and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it
was that the sun had come out” – even though none of those qualities described the environment in which she
lived – e.g. the people, the food, the weather. She did so because she was only reading books from foreign
Another example she shared was about the image she developed about Fide, her family’s house-boy – that “it
[was] impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor”, and that they were incapable of making
anything with creativity and skill. She had this image because of “the only thing my mother told us about
[Fide] was that his family was very poor.
A third example was about what happened when she traveled to Mexico – about how “I realized that I had been
so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they had become one thing in my mind, the abject
She was not initially aware that she had these biased views. What she is describing is a concept called “implicit
bias”, which “refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an
unconscious manner.” https://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias [emphasis added]
They are distinct from “explicit biases”, which are attitudes and stereotypes about which we are conscious and
that we choose to maintain,
Because these “implicit biases” are unconscious, they can even significantly contradict the views we
consciously have and want to have.
We develop these “implicit biases” not only as a result of direct experiences we have had, but also from the
ways in which we are raised, including within our families, formal education, media images and messages, and
the broader culture to which we are exposed.
The effects of our “implicit biases” can be significant. They can strongly influence how we think and feel
about, and thus interact with, other people. As Ms Adichie illustrates with her account of the kinds of stories
she wrote as a young child, they can also affect the ways we think and feel about, and thus treat, ourselves.
And as her story about her college roommate’s views of people from Africa – that their lives were just filled
with catastrophes, and so she treated Ms Adichie with pity – the “implicit biases” of others can significantly
Question (optional): What thoughts, feelings, and/or questions do these ideas about “implicit bias” as they
relate to the TedTalk cause in you?
Learning Activity #3 (optional): One way to explore what “implicit biases” that you may have”Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington [have] created ‘Project
Implicit’ to develop Hidden Bias Test – called Implicit Association Tests, or IATs, in the academic world – to
measure unconscious bias.”
On the Project Insight website, there are over a dozen IATs that a person can take to explore what “implicit
biases” they may have. (I would stress the term “may have”. The staff of Project Insight do not claim that the
interpretations it gives to the results of an IAT are completely accurate.)
If you are interested in taking one (or more) of those IATs – it is not required that you do so – paste the
following link into your web-browser:
That link will bring you to a page with some initial information about the IAT process. If, after reading through
this preliminary information, you decide to take one (or more) of these IATs, click on “I wish to proceed”.
If you do choose to take one (or more) of these IATs, and you would like to share about the experience that you
had, you can write about it below (Again, this is not a requirement.)
Learning Activity #4 (optional): Reflecting on strategies for addressing our implicit* biases
At the end of class, I distributed a handout entitled, “6 Ways to Break Your Implicit Bias patterns”. (I’m also
posting/emailing a copy of the handout)
I encourage you to read through and reflect upon the strategies described in the handout.
Question (optional): What thoughts, feelings, and/or questions do the strategies described in this handout cause
in you?Once you have completed all of the questions on this “Daily ‘Reflection Questions'” handout, “Save”
your responses, and submit it to the “Daily ‘Reflection Questions'” (Introductory Unit — Lesson Three)
folder in the “Assignments” section of D2L.
The Danger of a Single Story (text)
I’m a storyteller. And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call “the danger of the
single story.” I grew up on a university campus in eastern Nigeria. My mother says that I started reading at the
age of two, although I think four is probably close to the truth. So I was an early reader, and what I read were
British and American children’s books.
I was also an early writer, and when I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon
illustrations that my poor mother was obligated to read, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All
my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about
the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had
never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather,
because there was no need to . . .
What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly
as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that
books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not
personally identify. Now, things changed when I discovered African books. There weren’t many of them
available, and they weren’t quite as easy to find as the foreign books.
But because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye, I went through a mental shift in my perception of
literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form
ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized.
Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new
worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in
literature. So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story
of what books are.
I come from a conventional, middle-class Nigerian family. My father was a professor. My mother was an
administrator. And so we had, as was the norm, live-in domestic help, who would often come from nearby rural
villages. So, the year I turned eight, we got a new house boy. His name was Fide. The only thing my mother
told us about him was that his family was very poor. My mother sent yams and rice, and our old clothes, to his
family. And when I didn’t finish my dinner, my mother would say, “Finish your food! Don’t you know? People
like Fide’s family have nothing.” So I felt enormous pity for Fide’s family.
Then one Saturday, we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket
made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his
family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had
become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them.
Years later, I thought about this when I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My
American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was
confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could
listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape
of Mariah Carey. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as
an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single
story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no
possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.
I must say that before I went to the U.S., I didn’t consciously identify as African. But in the U.S., whenever
Africa came up, people turned to me. Never mind that I knew nothing about places like Namibia. But I did
come to embrace this new identity, and in many ways I think of myself now as African . . .
So, after I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate’s response to me.
If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think
that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting
senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind,
white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide’s family . . .
And so, I began to realize that my American roommate must have throughout her life seen and heard different
versions of this single story . . .
But I must quickly add that I too am just as guilty in the question of the single story. A few years ago, I visited
Mexico from the U.S. The political climate in the U.S. at the time was tense, and there were debates going on
about immigration. And, as often happens in America, immigration became synonymous with Mexicans. There
were endless stories of Mexicans as people who were fleecing the healthcare system, sneaking across the
border, being arrested at the border, that sort of thing.
I remember walking around on my first day in Guadalajara, watching the people going to work, rolling up
tortillas in the marketplace, smoking, laughing. I remember first feeling slight surprise. And then, I was
overwhelmed with shame. I realized that I had been so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they
had become one thing in my mind, the abject immigrant. I had bought into the single story of Mexicans and I
could not have been more ashamed of myself. So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one
thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.
It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo [a language
spoken in Nigeria] word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is
“nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political
worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told,
how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.
Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.
The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it
is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and
not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the
African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story . . .
When I learned, some years ago, that writers were expected to have had really unhappy childhoods to be
successful, I began to think about how I could invent horrible things my parents had done to me. But the truth is
that I had a very happy childhood, full of laughter and love, in a very close-knit family.
But I also had grandfathers who died in refugee camps. My cousin Polle died because he could not get adequate
healthcare. One of my closest friends, Okoloma, died in a plane crash because our fire trucks did not have
water. I grew up under repressive military governments that devalued education, so that sometimes, my parents
were not paid their salaries. And so, as a child, I saw jam disappear from the breakfast table, then margarinedisappeared, then bread became too expensive, then milk became rationed. And most of all, a kind of
normalized political fear invaded our lives.
All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience
and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem
with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only
Of course, Africa is a continent full of catastrophes: There are immense ones, such as the horrific rapes in
Congo and depressing ones, such as the fact that 5,000 people apply for one job vacancy in Nigeria. But there
are other stories that are not about catastrophe, and it is very important, it is just as important, to talk about
I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the
stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It
makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we
So what if before my Mexican trip, I had followed the immigration debate from both sides, the U.S. and the
Mexican? What if my mother had told us that Fide’s family was poor and hardworking? What if we had an
African television network that broadcast diverse African stories all over the world? What the Nigerian writer
Chinua Achebe calls “a balance of stories.”
What if my roommate knew about my Nigerian publisher, Muhtar Bakare, a remarkable man who left his job in
a bank to follow his dream and start a publishing house? Now, the conventional wisdom was that Nigerians
don’t read literature. He disagreed. He felt that people who could read, would read, if you made literature
affordable and available to them . . .
Now, what if my roommate knew about my friend Fumi Onda, a fearless woman who hosts a TV show in
Lagos, and is determined to tell the stories that we prefer to forget? What if my roommate knew about the heart
procedure that was performed in the Lagos hospital last week? What if my roommate knew about contemporary
Nigerian music, talented people singing in English and Pidgin, and Igbo and Yoruba and Ijo, mixing influences
from Jay-Z to Fela to Bob Marley to their grandfathers[?]
What if my roommate knew about the female lawyer who recently went to court in Nigeria to challenge a
ridiculous law that required women to get their husband’s consent before renewing their passports? What if my
roommate knew about Nollywood, full of innovative people making films despite great technical odds, films so
popular that they really are the best example of Nigerians consuming what they produce? What if my roommate
knew about my wonderfully ambitious hair braider, who has just started her own business selling hair
extensions? Or about the millions of other Nigerians who start businesses and sometimes fail, but continue to
Every time I am home I am confronted with the usual sources of irritation for most Nigerians: our failed
infrastructure, our failed government, but also by the incredible resilience of people who thrive despite the
government, rather than because of it. I teach writing workshops in Lagos every summer, and it is amazing to
me how many people apply, how many people are eager to write, to tell stories . . .
Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess 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.The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her Southern relatives who had moved to the North. She
introduced them to a book about the Southern life that they had left behind. “They sat around, reading the book
themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.” I would like to end with this
thought: 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.
6 Ways To Break Your Implicit Bias Patterns
Allan Halcrow, CultureWizard Contributor | Dec 2, 2020
There are steps you can take to unlearn implicit biases. But be patient because, as with most behavioral change,
it’s going to take time. Here are some tips to help you start breaking implicit bias patterns:
Increase contact with people who are different from you. Although incidents of racial bias grab headlines,
we can also form unconscious biases based on gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, marital status,
education, and many other characteristics. We also tend to socialize most with people like us. Break that pattern
by interacting with people outside your in-group. That interaction will have much greater effect if you work to
form genuine friendships with those people, rather than rely on casual or infrequent contact.
Notice positive examples. Research shows that implicit bias responds to current input. In other words, new
experiences can replace older data. One way to take advantage of this is to focus your attention
on positive characteristics and actions of people who are outside your in-group. The idea is to create new
patterns and generalizations that are positive.
Be specific in your intent. It’s one thing to say, “I will lose weight.” It’s another to say, “I will cut dessert out
of my diet until I’ve lost 10 pounds.” The latter statement is more likely to help you succeed. Regardless of
whether you are aware of holding specific stereotypes yourself, you can defeat negative bias by countering it
intentionally. For example, there is a pervasive (and inaccurate) stereotype that African Americans are more
likely to commit crimes than people of other races. Regardless of whether we accept the stereotype, we are
aware of it. A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found that people who intentionally said the
word “safe” to themselves each time they encountered an African American effectively undid implicit bias by
creating a new and more positive stereotype.
Change the way you do things. Often, we’re stuck in negative patterns without realizing it. In hiring, for
example, we often perpetuate single-minded thinking by hiring people much like ourselves. A contributing
factor can be implicit bias in the way we read resumes, making assumptions based on people’s names, age or
education. So, ditch the resumes! Some companies have already done so, and are, instead, asking candidates to
submit work samples or presentations. This way people are hired based on the quality of their work, not on who
or what they are. (The Clayman Institute of Gender Studies at Stanford found that the number of women
musicians in orchestras rose from 5% to 25% after auditioning players performed behind a screen so that their
gender was unknown; the playing spoke for itself.)Heighten your awareness. Once you become aware of something, you can’t be unaware ever again. Make an
effort to notice all the ways in which your perceptions are subliminally shaped. For example, you may
consciously believe that women are equally as capable as men of being effective leaders. But every time you
uncritically read or hear phrases like “glass ceiling” or “gender pay gap” they undermine your belief.
Take care of yourself. Implicit bias is more likely to surface when we are mentally or physically exhausted or
highly stressed. That’s because when we’re tired or stressed, we’re less effective at processing new information
and rely more on unconscious patterns.
None of these approaches, alone, will help us overcome our implicit bias. And even collectively they will only
work if we accept that we have implicit biases and commit to diligent self-awareness. We must see ourselves
clearly before we can begin to see others clearly.
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