Considering Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows intimately how migration can upend life, her selection as the keynote speaker for the United Nation’s World Humanitarian Day—focusing on the global refugee crisis last week—was apropos.
The Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun author’s parents fled during Nigeria’s Biafra War and spent three years in a refugee camp.
What’s more, Quartz Africa reports that a quarter of the world’s refugee population—that’s 18 million people—are escaping conflicts that have disrupted everyday life in countries like South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
During her speech delivered in NYC, Adichie cautioned against othering, basically applying monolithic thinking to justify writing off or stereotyping an entire group of people.
“Nobody is ever just a refugee. Nobody is ever just a single thing. And yet, in the public discourse today, we often speak of people as a single a thing. Refugee. Immigrant.”
Instead, the novelist proposes that we choose love over hatred or fear, saying:
In my language, Igbo, the word for ‘love’ is ‘ifunanya’ and its literal translation is, ‘to see.’ So I would like to suggest today that this is a time for a new narrative, a narrative in which we truly see those about whom we speak.
Let us tell a different story. Let us remember that the movement of human beings on earth is not new. Human history is a history of movement and mingling. Let us remember that we are not just bones and flesh. We are emotional beings. We all share a desire to be valued, a desire to matter. Let us remember that dignity is as important as food.
Without a doubt, you can always count on Adichie to keep it 100.
Spare a moment today and watch the prolific author’s address below.