FROM THE HIP: Ignorance Silences Marginalized Voices

By SONALI CHIGURUPATI

Sonali - From the Hip

There is a comfort in being ignorant. After all, a common saying is that ignorance is bliss.

It’s clearly easier to not be concerned with issues such as inequality and oppression. However, with ignorance comes the silencing of voices that deserve to be heard. This helps us to treat people with dignity.

As Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie said in a famous Ted Talk, being ignorant forces people to develop inadequate perspectives on the world and create single stories about others.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete,” said Adichie. “They make one story become the only story.”

At a recent lecture in New York City, Adichie spoke about how the world views Africa, women’s rights, gay rights, and the importance of being able to express one’s voice. To neglect stories is censorship. In the words of Adichie, “It is censorship to tell half a story. It is censorship to neglect context.”

Too much of the world’s population is silenced because their stories are too hard to hear, but without listening, the world will never understand that there are millions of people who live without access to education, security, and food. About 783 million people don’t have access to clean water and 300,000 children are forced to become soldiers around the world.

Educating ourselves about these human rights issues helps to better our world because it lets voices that have been silenced be heard.

Chimamanda Adichie said, “I would not want to live if I were not able to have the consolation that stories give me…and for this reason I will stand and I will speak for the right of everyone, everyone, to tell his or her story.”

She finds hope, like so many others, through the stories people tell, so she fights for everyone’s ability to speak up. However, there are many people who don’t want to hear stories. They don’t mind that others are being silenced because they have what they need and they live their lives contently. They live in a bubble where ignorance is blissful.

In her novels, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, and Purple Hibiscus, Adichie expressed the voices of those that have been silenced. She told riveting stories that grasped the attention of many readers worldwide.

Adichie is a Nigerian woman who has battled oppression and overcome many obstacles so that she can fight for the rights of everyone. She has a mind so vast, I can only wish to be as wise as her.

Although she is making a difference, Adichie can’t do it all on her own. Instead of talking, we should start listening to the stories people have to tell because they all deserve to be heard.

In the wise words of Chimamanda Adichie, “Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here’s to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”