Friday, March 22, 2013

#slice2013 22 of 31

My mom's new thing is Ted Talks. I'd have to admit though, I really enjoy this latest obsession of hers. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of listening to a Ted Talk, I would definitely recommend it. The last Ted Talk she had us watch was a talk by a lady from Nigeria. She talked about how difficult it is to not judge a group of people as a whole and make assumptions about individuals based on typical stereotypes. This talk struck me even more than any of the others we've seen so far because I realized in horror that I often do just that-judging individuals based on group stereotypes-often without even noticing.

Chimamanda Adichie came from a fairly well-off family in Nigeria. The average, typical, white, middle-class American would make the classic assumption that people from Africa speak a foreign African language, listen to old tribal music, dress in red and orange cloths and pee in holes in the ground. Unfortunately, Chimamanda's roommate at her American college made many of these assumptions when, as Ms. Adichie points out, in reality Chimamanda "listens to Moriah Carey."

Ms. Adichie did not exactly enjoy or understand these assumptions made about herself and her culture, but did not appreciate exactly how easy it was to be pulled into the trap of believing a stereotype until she, herself, made an assumption about Mexicans based on her knowledge of the group as a whole. As the media constantly reminds us, there is an ever increasing number of illegal Mexican immigrants entering the United States. Chimamanda sheepishly admits that she saw a Mexican American and immediately assumed he was illegal. She goes on to talk about how easy it is to do to other people exactly what her roommate had done to her.

Her talk got me thinking not only about how easy it is to fall into believing the common stereotypes, but also how easy it is for the government and the media to manipulate the stereotypes we trust. 

Chimamanda Adichie did not just believe in a typical stereotype, but more specifically a stereotype created and made popular by the government and the media. If the news of the surplus of Mexican immigrants hadn't been in the newspaper and on television every other day, I doubt that the Mexican American population would be looked at in the same way that they are now.

Ms. Adichie's story just goes to show us that we need to be careful of what we choose to believe about people and what evidence we have to support those beliefs. If our only back-up evidence for making assumptions is "everyone knows that" then maybe we should take a second look at why "that" is such a commonly known fact. Maybe there's more to it than what first meets the eye.


  1. Wow! That sounds like a powerful thought. I've just started exploring Ted Talks and wish I had more time to watch more. Have you seen John Green's Ted Talk? It's amazing, too.

  2. Ted Talks are rich with interesting and thought provoking material. I teach a graduate class on leadership and some of our most !amazing discussions have begun with a Ted Talk. I have not seen this one and it is on my list to do. Thanks!

  3. I love Ted Talks and wish I had more time to sit and watch them. This one sounds like a powerful one and one that could be a powerful message during a unit about stereotyping that I do each year. I will have to check it out. Stereotyping is such a big force in the world and can be so dangerous.

  4. Very powerful. I haven't really listened to any Ted Talks, but I have heard a lot about them. I need to start listening.

  5. This was one of my favorite Ted Talks, because she was so on point in such a humorous way. We assume a lot about each other, and lose much in the process. Ted talks are a wonderful way in which to make the time go by during boring, every day laundry, driving here and there, and shoveling snow. A whole world of people and ideas at the touch of an iPhone!

  6. I have only seen a few of the Ted Talks, but they have been very good. I guess I should find more.
    I very much believe we need to look beyond the surface and know the whole story to form an opinion. You are a thinker.