Much of my life has been shaped by people who have much the same views and ideas about the world. My parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and others surrounding me told much the same story as I grew up: the story of the white American middle class. About these people, their experiences, and their problems I can quote a plethora of stories and examples. In addition, I understand what it means to be a part of that demographic because I have my own story to add to the stories of those that were the closest to me in my most formative years. However, outside of these stories that fit into one category, I am still fairly ignorant about much of the world around me. This is simply due to the fact that I don’t know many people who have stories to oppose the “single story.” So, I have been limited in my access to differing stories from around the world, at least on a more personal level.
In terms of the United States, I’m not sure that it is possible to make a generalization about the rest of the world. In certain areas, it would seem very easy to say that, yes, there is a single story told. For example, the authoritarian government of North Korea has an idea of the American people and government. They then pass on this idea through propaganda that enters the public eye, making it the “truth” for many people without access to contradictory evidence. Other people groups, especially those in Europe, have more personal interactions with those from the United States. They can make their own ideas and formulate their own beliefs about the United States by what they experience themselves and with what those close to them experience. This is not to say, though, that people in Europe are immune to a “single story” of the United States. Sometimes, people simply don’t put in the effort or have the desire to replace old stereotypes or fight against a simplification of a nation, in both the US and in other countries.
Realizing my own lack of experience, I’ve tried my best to broaden my horizons and find stories. The beauty of the internet and organizations like TED Talks lies in the fact that differing points of view can be found at the click of a button. Also, the University offers so many great opportunities for international interaction. At the international student meet-and-greet, my ideas of many foreign countries changed in just an hour. I met students from so many nations who didn’t fit “local norm,” or at least what I believed was the norm. This ranged from differences in religion to differences in social beliefs, and although I knew in my head that those country’s had minorities, I never really gave those people a reality. That is until I met them, living and breathing challenges to the “single story.”