As part of my BSN program I’m taking a Sociology course. Each week we have to answer questions from each chapter and post them to our online discussion board. I’m reposting some of my answers here if I find them to be insightful or conducive to conversation. Our textbook is You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley.
CHAPTER 1: Sociological Imagination: An Introduction
List out your ethnic background, sex and religion.
I am male, Puerto Rican, and Jewish.
Then write down what messages you have received from your families about these statuses.
- About being male: In general, not much, actually. My family does not perpetuate the Hispanic machismo stereotype. I was taught men need to be tough, resourceful, honorable, and hard-working, all by example (mostly by my grandfather). Growing up surrounded mostly by women, however, I was also taught that men need to be understanding, patient, family-oriented, faithful, and reverent. In fact, my grandfather thought that the Scout Law (“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent (Boy Scouts of America, 2015).”) was a great definition of what a man should be (it’s no wonder he enrolled me in the Boy Scouts as soon as I was of age).
- About being Puerto Rican: We are a people of tradition, hard-workers on the one hand, laid back on the other, a people of faith, lovers of good food, part of the States but also fiercely our own.
- About being Jewish: I converted as an adult, so I didn’t receive anything from my family regarding Judaism. In fact, 13 years after my conversion, I continue to struggle with what it means to be Jewish, and specifically a Jewish convert, especially when I am the sole Jew in my family, and when I have no further familial connections to Judaism (not since my divorce). I have learned that being Jewish is being unique, different, special, hated, proud, humble, but these are things I have learned on my own, not from my family (from other people’s families maybe, actually).
Then write down what you think “other people” think about people with your status?
- About being male: Powerful, responsible, hard-working, chauvinistic, entitled, privileged, clueless, childish, irresponsible, lazy, lustful. (In general, the view of men isn’t a very good one lately.)
- About being Puerto Rican: Loud, lazy, happy, cheerful, fun-loving, religious, victims.
- About being Jewish: Aloof, mysterious, elitist, strange, rich, connected, influential, meek, victims, persecuted, fractured, reverent, non-reverent, antiquated, cheerful.
How is the Sociological Imagination useful in this discussion?
Sociological Imagination (SI) allows me, the individual, to relate to the collected experience of my family (both natural and those I have allowed to influence me) to my personal life. What it means to be a man, for example, is too big a question for me to try to answer, but because I am connecting my experience to that transmitted through my family, I can imagine how my personal experiences relate to those my grandfather went through during the 40s or 50s, or the experiences of his father during the 20s. In regards to being Puerto Rican, SI allows me to connect to the history of all Puerto Ricans and see how that shaped my family and myself, how it continues to do so even though I haven’t lived in the island for 20 years. When it comes to being Jewish, SI is the only way I have to create an identity of what it means to be Jewish, since my identity is built from the narratives of people I have allowed to influence me, from their families’ stories. SI is what allows me to take my place in the greater narrative of Judaism.
Boy Scouts of America. (2015). Scout Law. Retrieved from http://www.scouting.org/Home/BoyScouts.aspx
Conley, D. (2011). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.