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The Danger of Embracing Negative Stereotypes – The “Othering” of a People

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I often mention in my posts on this site that I am an immigrant to this great country. Recently, someone mentioned in a comment that by virtue of me being an immigrant, naturally, I’m biased when it comes to the issue of immigration reform as it’s debated. My position is that being from somewhere and retaining a semblance of self, gives you a unique world view. As such, it never surprises me to encounter people who look like me, who have adopted the anti-immigrant sentiments spewed by organizations funded by racists.

I found the following speech by novelist Chimamanda Adichie to be interesting, in that it speaks to just what I’m talking about. There’s a message in their somewhere, but I’ll leave it up to you to figure it out. She tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. As I mentioned before, this to me, seems to be the main problem with any debate on immigration, and or immigration reform. Ultimately, though much of the debate is riddled with stereotypical negative views of an immigrant. Where we go wrong in doing so, is that we miss the opportunity to recognize that we’re all human, and are full of many similarities despite our cultural differences. Check it out and tell me what you got out of it:

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Published on: December 19, 2011

Filled Under: Race

Views: 1087

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  • http://mybrowneyedview.com msladydeborah

    Bravo!!!! 

    I can totally relate to what was shared in this particular TED talk.

    I have often mentioned that I started reading at age 4 and how I would go to the branch of the library in my neighborhood on a weekly basis.  What I have never brought up about my early reading experiences was the lack of books about Black people.  I would spend a lot of time searching through the stacks and making selections.  But there was not any story books with children who looked like us.  As I grew older and a different type of social conscience began to emerge, so did the books that had been missing from our lives. I received a real education about Black people who did not live like we did in the mid west. It was an eye-opening moment for me. 

    One of the things that truly irritated me about people outside of our culture who would read these books was that impression that it was our collective experience.  I would become so angry when someone would say, “I know that you’ve come from out of a difficult situation, how did you survive living in substandard housing…blah blah blah.” I would correct them immediately because I grew up in a home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, it was paid for and well maintained. I also hated it when people would heap praise onto me because they were so sure I was the first person in my family who had attended college.  When I shared with them that this was not true and give the list of college graduates in my family and their respective degrees, it would stun them because their impressions were not anything like that.

    I got the message that was conveyed in this talk.  I wanted to say thanks for sharing it.  I really enjoyed listening to every word.  I am going to share this with others because I feel that they will either get ir right away or learn a lesson that they need to master.

    Again, BRAVO!!!

  • sy

    What an awesome video!  Rejecting the single story of a person, people or place and learning the whole story!  I will remember this forever!

    But how do I rid myself of the fear of visiting Africa and being bit by some plague carrying insect or a venomous snake?  Or, being captured in the middle of the night by some militia?  Sad thing is, I’ve been to South Africa as a teenager!  Toured almost the entire country!  Came home in one piece! 

    I thought Mexico was one big fiesta!  Tequila for everyone!  Siestas for everyone!  Ponchos and Sombreros for everyone!  My God!  I went there a couple years ago, visited the ruins and was in awe of the rich history!  Completely disturbed at the watered down – Cinco de Mayo-ish image of Mexico “the man” fed to me!

    I watched the movies Hostel 1 & 2!  Again, deathly afraid of traveling through Europe!  I can go on and on about my crazy travel ideas and hang ups but I won’t hahaha!  Pray for me!  Smh

  • Anonymous

    Great blog.

  • http://thediamondmind.blogspot.com/ Eddie Blue-Eyes

    Unfortunately, this has become (or always has been?) a common practice: generalizing from anecdotal evidence.

    THANKS for posting this. I’m not as nice.

    • Lorrie

      …or as smart.

  • http://lets-be-clear.blogspot.com/ Deb

    Rippa…Riveting is all I can say right now (too full!).  Thank you for posting this and I hope you don’t mind my re-posting in my sidebar (with attribution of course!).  I know if I comment right now, it’d take up wa-a-ay to much space!  I’ll either comment later, or link to this post as I expound in my next post.

    All I can say right now is this beautiful, young sister has hit the nail on its proverbial head!  I’ve never read any of her novels, but I what I know for sure is – I will.

  • Lorrie

    Really RIPPa?  That is your final words on the matter?  Your experience lends that you are from “somewhere?”  Meaning I am from nowhere?  I have a unique world view just as you do – we just do not agree.  I have not adopted any black anti-immigration sentiments of which I had no idea existed.  It never surprises me to find people who look like me, that I support and respect in the struggle who only seek to demonize and tear others down – specifically those they cannot see eye-to-eye with. I will listen to video when I get home.  You are right about one thing, she is beautiful, like many black women in this country are.