The power of a story, whether written or spoken, has a lasting impact on the way we perceive almost everything around us. Sometimes they are too simple and a particular story becomes the only way something is understood. The risk of a single story is that one perspective can lead us to default assumptions and conclusions that are incomplete, and may lead to misunderstandings. After listening to the “dangers of a single story” in class, my thoughts wandered to the single-story about us Muslims and how we are portrayed as a terrorist by the media. The single negative story that people heard somehow made an identity for all of us labeling us “the crazy Muslim terrorists”. I remember the first time I felt aware of this and wondered how many other people were victimized by the negative stereotypes.
It was my sister’s birthday and my mom wanted to buy her something that would make her feel special and beat dad`s gift as well. I went shopping with her and recall us going from one shop to another. After hours of shopping, we found a small jewelry store. We entered the store and all heads turned to us. The saleswoman approached us and asked us “ are you guys lost, do you need directions” she spoke slowly as if talking to a child. My mom answered her politely “ thank you for your concern but we are looking for some to jewelry to buy”.
She looked at us surprised and baffled by our answer and asked us again “ you speak English”. My young self was confused and my brain could not comprehend why she would ask us that question nonetheless my mom answered her again “ yes, I do could you please show me the necklace aisle ” she nodded still looking surprised and we followed behind her. I looked around the store and saw people whispering and pointing at us, I was getting uncomfortable by the stares and whispers and drew closer to my mom. The saleswoman showed us the necklace aisle but still stood behind us looking at us cautiously.
Finally, my mom seemed to find the perfect gift for my sister, a beautiful gold charm necklace. My mom picked it up and smiled but the saleswoman approached us again “ are you sure you have enough money for this, it is quite expensive”. She asked us again. I felt insulted by her question but my mom ignored her as we headed to the cashier to buy the necklace. The cashier, an old white man glanced at our clothing as we stood in line and his expression changed to a dim gloomy face. My mom handed him the necklace and he looked enraged. He spoke in a loud voice full of anger “ I don’t sell things to terrorists”, the couple behind us laughed “ we ought to check what are under those rags” they commented.
My mom laughed and took my hand to leave the store. I was angry and didn’t feel content leaving the store without the necklace, my emotions got the best and I screamed at them “ yeah we are coming after you” my mom scolded me while we left the store and lectured me all night about not letting people get the best of you. I was hurt by this assumption because we were normal people trying to buy a gift for someone’s birthday but the ignorance of people and a single-story led people into thinking we carry things under our “ rags” were uneducated people that needed constant security over them.
Single stories can be dangerous, not because they are untrue or incomplete but when a story is endlessly repeated it assumes the status of truth and people begin to perceive it as reality. People’s perception is theirs, however, people still don’t understand the simple fact that perception is different from reality and that everyone has their own perception of the world. Everyone thinks their perception is the reality. So, there become millions of realities. On the surface, I think most people don’t realize that they are quick to judge and assume with just one single story. Oftentimes it is not because they are a bad person but were influenced and taught to perceive things by others. I know I’m not alone in this or immune to it either because I once remember an instance where I judged a person based on preconceived thought.
My father and I were returning from a long, tiring appointment at the hospital and we decided to grab food along the way and stopped at a broken down, dilapidated corner store. It was clear this was the rundown section of the city and suddenly felt at unease and was scared for my safety. We exited the car and headed for the store. I looked at my surroundings only to find huge men leaning on their cars covered with tattoos blasting loud music. They wore sagging pants, had dreads, and oversized hoodies. I suddenly felt alarmed and quickly hurried inside the store. The place was small and was crammed with people laughing and enjoying their food.
My dad placed our order and I couldn’t stop my eyes from taking a second glimpse at the men that were standing outside only to find them approaching the store. My instinct kicked in and to my surprise I found myself clutching my belongings and looking away.” number five your order is up” a man yelled. we stood up and headed to grab our order. As my father was searching his pocket for the money, the man yelled at him to hurry up and complained about having other customers.
My father abruptly apologized to the man explaining to him that he had his wallet a moment ago. All of a sudden I felt a hand on my shoulder and a chill went through my spine. I nervously turned around only to find “ them”. One of them spoke up and said “ is this the wallet you’re looking for ma`am’’. I looked at his hand to find my father’s wallet. I felt a sense of shame hit me and was disgusted at myself for assuming the worst and judging them. My assumption was incorrect and unfair because I judged based on a single story and thought they were dangerous because they dressed a certain way. The single story about tattooed men being dangerous made me make an identity for all of them and think of them as anything but dangerous.