Social Scholarship As I have matured as a student and a scholar it has become more clear to me that in today’s society with all it’s talk of multi-culturalism and melting pot rhetoric it is blatantly clear that much of the discourse regarding the social world is rooted in Euro-centric research and ideology. As such, I content that it is the role of the African American sociologist to shift the center of analysis from a European focus to one that is inclusive of all people represented in this society. This can only be achieved by giving voice to those whose experiences have been traditional marginalized in the discourse concerning the social world. A fifteen-year-old girl finds out that she is pregnant. Although she and her boyfriend have been together since she was thirteen, she is afraid she will lose him if she tells him.
She feels as if she has finally found someone to love. This man loves her more than the men in her family who sexually abused her did. He loves her more than her father who is never home. Despite her fear, and because of that love, she tells him. He is seventeen and afraid of fatherhood. After all, he never had a father.
What was he going to be able to impart to the new life he had created? How would he be able to teach a daughter how to demand respect from a man when he was not certain if respected women? How would he teach manhood to a son when he was still a boy himself? These questions and more raged through his head. All of Nevertheless, he knew what he must do. He would marry her After all, he did love her or so he thought and besides it was the right thing to do. This couple bore a son born with mental and physically disabilities. They became married at the age of sixteen and eighteen.
One year later, they had a second child. The girl quit high school in ninth grade and the boy joined the military. However, the pressures of life began to weigh heavily on them and the both turned to drug use. The military would have none of that and the boy was demoted and stopped using drugs. Unfortunately, with the pressures of being a wife and mother weighing on her restless soul, the girl was unable to stop and her use turned into a crippling addiction. After thirteen years of marriage the boy and girl, know man and woman, divorced.
Their lives changed irreconcilably forever addiction. Various aspects of this story play out everyday in families across the country. This story could be anyone’s tale but it is specifically the story of my parents. I have seen and experienced first hand the detriment that issues of teen pregnancy, drug use, sexual abuse and disability can have not, only on society as a whole but on individual families. It has been this exposure that has fueled my intellectual growth and strengthened my desire to add to the much-needed discourse of the African American family in Black sociology. Sociology has allowed me to view my life experiences through a critical scholarly lens.
This discipline has allowed me to see the internal connection between my experiences and the larger social world. My life has been a testament to the need to have African Americans who are trained in this discipline and are able to put forth a framework by which to view our social issues without victim blaming ideologies. It is for this reason that my interests have been propelled toward African American sociology. My experiences as an African American woman has shaped and molded my philosophies and beliefs about my particular role as a black sociologist. It has been my experience that each interaction, connection, and moment in one’s life is a brick. The collection of those bricks eventually builds the houses in which our souls will dwell. As human beings, either we can place those bricks in a position that yields strength and endurance for this house or we can place them haphazardly in a formation that does not support or maintain the house.
It is how we decide to build our house that inevitably determines whether we will live in a mansion or a shack. It is my role as a sociologist to give society the tools to help its inhabitants build mansions. By offering research, discourse and possible solutions to the social issues facing this society I am able to illuminate the multiple experiences of those people who have for too long been silenced by the hegemonic ideas of the dominant group. It should the role of all Black sociologist to offer a perspective that is inclusive of all people simply because we share the experience of at some time, not being heard. Not only is it my responsibility to enlighten society about social issues, it is also my duty to help change the world I live in for the better. Discussion yields no results if no one takes the words and puts action behind them. Regardless of whether or not we want to be, each of us is a participant in life.
I once read an anonymous quote that stated that there are three types of people in the world. There are those people who things happen to, those who make things happen, and those who wonder what happened. If I have the desire to live in a better world then I must be about the business of creating that better world. Teenage pregnancy and teen sexuality have always been very important issues to me. Consequently, when I was seventeen I became peer educator with Family Health Councils Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in Pittsburgh, PA. I facilitated groups and spoke with teens about abstinence, safer sex, and sexually transmitted diseases.
As this program grew, we went to various schools and communities and discovered that sexuality was related to self-esteem, decision making and communication skills. With this knowledge, we expanded our program to include workshops on these issues. Soon we began training other teens on how to start programs of their own. Eventually, this program began reaching teens all over the state and teen pregnancy rates began to fall. This did not happen because one messiah came and changed the world.
It happened because young people decided that they wanted to make a difference in their community. This must be the goal of Black sociology or the tree that is this discipline will bear no fruit. My role as an African American sociologist is to change the world around me by offering an intellectual prowess, a dedicated spirit, and a focus on giving voice to the unheard by challenging the Euro-centric view of African American life. Anything less is a disservice to my discipline, my community, and myself.