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In 1959 author and scholar C.Wright Mills published a book called “Sociological Imagination”. In this book Mills describe the situation as one of both confinement and powerlessness. On the one hand, men are confined by the routine of their lives: you go to your job and are a worker, and then you come home and are a family man. There are limited roles that men play, and a day in the life of a man is cycle through them. On the other hand, men are also powerless in the face of lager and global political conditions they cannot control.
To understand this situation, Mills says, we should adopt a “sociological imagination.” what Mills trying to say is that a way of thinking and asking questions. To have a sociological imagination means looking at the world sociologically, asking sociological questions and proving sociological answers. The two main thing that Mills focuses on observation is that the individual and the other of societies large-scale social forces. Mills wrote that in the book to explain the differences between them so that he can give us a better idea of what sociological imagination is..
While Mills believed with the introduction of the concept many scholars have followed his footsteps, explaining to what it means to possess the sociological imagination. The author and scholar G. Johnson, he wrote about the use of social imagination in everyday life and how it can change the way we see our world as we know it. Another one of these authors is Robin DiAngelo, in article “where Fragility” she talks about the social structure that lead to racism in our society. The factors that lead to white fragility , a topic introduced by DiAngelo as the leading problem with race in our society. Both authors have found the view of our society through both lenses.
Mills details the “The Promise” of his imagination that men in our society are set up for failure because of the social structure that surrounds them. This social structure demand men to meet certain criteria and achieve certain goals; these goals are often undoable because of the very system that blinds them. These men, without understanding the full picture and lacking a sociological imagination allow society and the world around them to control them. The main reason why the social structure of class, race and gender function os because we all involve to the problem in some form or another. As DiAngelo shows it in relation to the social structure of racism, by doing nothing or choosing to ignore the problem we help it grow out of control. Racism, white people ignore the fact that white privilege exists or that they benefit from it. Choosing to ignore this fact we strengthen the forces of white privilege.
DiAngelo express that white people in America live in a social bubble that protects and insulates them from racial stress which leads to white fragility. She lists seven factors that create this bubble. One of these factors is segregation, in post-civil rights movement America most whites live in segregation but not the segregation that is taught in history books. We live in a white dominated society where segregation occurs on multiple levels, white people grow up in white dominated schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces never thinking it’s anything but normal. White people define “good” schools or neighborhoods as schools with an absence of people of color, white people do not outright say this but instead use coded language and follow stereotypes that exclude people of color from their lives. Diangelo says, “white people are taught not to feel any loss over the absence of people of color in their lives and in fact, this absence is what defines schools and neighborhoods as “good”. Whites are taught by society to believe that the “loss” DiAngelo explains that it is not really a loss at all but instead a benefit to go to a “good” school or live in a “good” neighborhood where the only time you may see a black person is when you leave your own bubble. The coding that DiAngelo lists is certain denied by whites, this denial creates the segregated world that we live in today.
Johnson also writes about the necessity for sociological thinking saying that, “things don’t have to be the way they are, but they won’t get better all by themselves. We need to do something, and what we do needs to be based on more than curve … we need systematic ways to figure things out, and that’s what sociological practice offers”. The sociological imagination is crucial in solving societal problems that our world faces today. Without examining the big picture we can only fight these social structures on a individualistic level which is not effective.
As a black woman, I have seen first-hand that society has traditionally viewed the black athlete as inherently gifted, while the white athlete is a “hard worker”, or “dedicated”. In my experience on the soccer field, I have seen referees, fans, and coaches give the benefit of the doubt to the white player, and undervalue my skill as a player, and simply expect me to be a good athlete because I am black. These are problems that all people of color face on a daily basis. Not only do I experience these hardships , but i in fact I do not benefit from social imagination i am able to recognize these facts and try to have a positive attitude for our society. I would somewhat be very appreciative if our world would be treated equally, but I don’t have the power to make a huge change but I could do my best. There are so many challenges that I will have to face as being a black woman because of who I am and how society works. Both Johnson and Mills argue, a sociological viewpoint is the only way to recognize these problems and actually affect change.
I don’t think this is always intentional, I believe it is a deeply ingrained perception that the black athlete is a more “natural” athlete, and because of that, my skills, hard work and strategic decisions are sometimes minimized. I am a good athlete, but I have worked hard to become one, it didn’t just happen because I am black.
This perception often requires me to go harder, be faster and stronger in order to be treated fairly on the field. My talents come from a natural place (just like a white athlete), but I have seen first-hand that in other’s eyes, that they think my “starting point” is higher than a white athlete. I don’t think it is always intentional, but a deeply ingrained belief system that society has enabled.
If we could teach our society as a whole to use the sociological imagination I do believe progress could be made. Progress can only be made if the people effecting change understand the problem and without the sociological lens it is almost impossible to understand the problems our society faces. My hope is that we will be able to make a change for the better in the near future by teaching the younger generations about the problems we face and how a larger view of our society is necessary to make change. I know this can’t be just done by one person, but I know we would need as many of our society to join together and believe that we could break these unfair cycle that carry down our world. Let’s look ahead and make a difference in our world. The future is ours.
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