SOCS 185 Week 2 - the sociological imagination explored and applied Essay 2

SOCS 185 Week 2 - the sociological imagination explored and applied Essay 2


Throughout American history, Black individuals have faced systemic disadvantages in nearly every aspect of life, spanning economics, education, politics, health, and the justice system. Sports, which hold significant power and often mirror societal structures of power and inequality, have been a particularly contentious arena for Black Americans. The participation of Black athletes in sports has always been reflective of their position and status within American society.

During the 17th through late 19th centuries, Black athletes were excluded from participating in intercollegiate athletics at predominantly White institutions, reflecting the broader exclusion and marginalization of Black individuals in mainstream society. African American athletes were gradually integrated into these institutions, primarily based on their exceptional athletic abilities. However, even as Black athletes gained access to predominantly White institutions, they often faced hostile environments that simultaneously celebrated their athletic prowess while demeaning them intellectually and socially. Racism remained a pervasive issue, manifesting as a personal and public struggle.

SOCS 185 Week 2 – the sociological imagination explored and Applied Essay 2

To understand the complex dynamics at play, it is essential to employ the sociological imagination, as described by C. Wright Mills. The sociological imagination involves recognizing the interplay between individual biographies and broader historical contexts. Mills argued that personal struggles are intimately connected to more extensive historical processes, and by examining this relationship, we can better grasp the underlying causes and implications of social issues.

According to Mills, personal troubles are individual challenges that arise within the scope of one’s character and immediate relationships. However, when we apply the sociological imagination, we uncover the connections between personal histories and broader socio-historical realities, allowing us to address problems rooted in structural arrangements. By understanding the historical context and structural forces, we gain insight into the more significant social issues affecting Black athletes and their experiences within the realm of sports.

To understand racial discrimination and social isolation comprehensively, it is crucial to examine the interplay between the socio-historical experiences of Black individuals in America and their encounters within predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Within this context, the sociological imagination becomes a valuable tool for exploring broader structural arrangements and societal issues. Contrary to common belief, these perspectives are not inherently contradictory but rather offer different interpretations and applications. By deconstructing the power structures rooted in White supremacy, it is possible to dismantle oppressive systems and create new designs that empower marginalized communities.

SOCS 185 Week 2 – the sociological imagination explored and Applied Essay 2

Personal troubles related to racial identity often arise within the educational system, particularly for Black males who face marginalization due to prevailing discourses on intelligence, achievement, and academic success. Dominant discourses, both institutional (e.g., culturally biased standardized tests) and cultural (e.g., limited availability of African and African American literature courses), contribute to this marginalization. Black students may find themselves placed in remedial or special education classes from an early age, leading to academic stigmatization, poor performance, low self-efficacy, and an increased risk of dropping out.

At the post-secondary level, Black athletes encounter a specific issue—the stereotype of being “dumb jocks.” Previous research has further reinforced this harmful stereotype by highlighting that Black athletes participating in revenue-generating sports often enter college academically underprepared, resulting in lower academic success than their peers. This perpetuates the notion that Black males are intellectually limited, despite the presence of other talents and capabilities.

To challenge these harmful narratives and structural inequalities, a sociological imagination can help illuminate the interconnectedness of personal experiences and broader socio-historical realities. Recognizing and addressing these issues makes it possible to dismantle oppressive power structures, promote equity, and create a more inclusive and supportive educational environment for Black individuals.

SOCS 185 Week 2 – the sociological imagination explored and Applied Essay 2

Racism has significant implications for mental health, including an increased risk of suicidality and subsequent mental disorders. Acculturation, the process by which dominant cultural values replace one’s cultural values, is strongly associated with suicide. Sociologists emphasize the importance of belonging and connectedness in integration, which refers to the collective integration of a group rather than individuals. Émile Durkheim’s empirical study on suicide in 1897 remains foundational in the sociological study of this phenomenon.

Durkheim’s approach did not prioritize subjective perceptions or appraisals. Instead, he emphasized integrated thinking, whether at the collective or individual level, as a protective factor against suicide. Durkheim also proposed a correlation between suicide rates and the level of consensus, coherence, and acceptance of rules and norms within a group. He referred to suicides resulting from insufficient regulation in society as anomic suicides.

The issue of athletic exploitation exemplifies the overemphasis of academics over athletics in many US post-secondary institutions, reflecting a broader problem of social exploitation faced by marginalized groups. Drawing on C. Wright Mills’ sociological imagination, the discrimination experienced by Black athletes and the limited leadership opportunities available to them throughout their athletic careers are inherently interconnected. Addressing this pressing public issue requires a deep understanding of its socio-historical origins. By dismantling and reorganizing existing structures, the oppressed can achieve widespread empowerment.


In conclusion, racism has profound implications for mental health and suicide risk. Durkheim’s insights on integration and societal regulation provide valuable frameworks for understanding suicide patterns. Applying a sociological imagination allows us to recognize the interconnectedness of racial discrimination and the exploitation of Black athletes. Through this understanding, we can work towards deconstructing existing structures and fostering empowerment for marginalized communities.


Mueller, Anna S. and Abrutyn, Seth and Pescosolido, Bernice and Defender, Sarah, 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.621569

Mills, C. W. (2000). The sociological imagination. Oxford University Press Crowley, R. (2019). White teachers, racial privilege, and the sociological imagination. Urban Education, 54(10), 1462-1488. (03), 261. Rudest, G., & Fantasize, C. (2022). The Association between Racism and Suicidality among Young Minority Groups: A Systematic Review. Journal of transcultural nursing: official journal of the Transcultural Nursing Society, 33(2), 228–238.

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