One of the elements of my job as a Sociology professor that I miss is research, or systematic investigations of social behavior. I have always had questions, and my mother once told me that I was born in the right times, for some of my questions would have in earlier decades have gotten me publicly flogged.
In the seventh grade, I wanted to know why the white children got a new school, and we, the black kids, got their old school. I did not understand why we inherited something that the white parents did not want for their children, and why were the adults in my community silent on the issue? Why did Mama and I have to get on the bus, pay our fare, and then walk to the back of the bus and get on, when there was a perfectly good aisle for walking from front to back?
Even as a child, I knew somehow deep in my spirit that there were behaviors that needed to be challenged. I must have been about 13 when I asked the adult women in my family why men got the biggest piece of the chicken, even though they did not cook it. Why do boys get to play outside after school and relax, while girls had to clean the house, not getting any respite from work?
Why do women ask men what they want to eat and prepare their plates, instead of the men getting their own food? That question nearly cost me a good relationship with a mother-in-law who was worried her son had made a serious mistake in marrying “that gal.” Mama just told me to stop asking questions and just do what I saw other people doing, and life would be great.
But, it wasn’t great to me! Being seen as below a man, second-class, and as a man’s servant, rather than as his partner, bothered me as a teenager, especially when I witnessed men hitting women, and those women never complained or called the police or tried to kill them. My heart was full of why, why, and more why?
I played the game as it was meant to be played, just as Mama told me to do, but when I was the one getting beat and had no one to help me, I learned that questions are good things, for they reveal the wrongness of a situation. If your heart questions any part of your relationships, then it is because somewhere in your spirit, there is an acknowledgment that something is wrong with the scenarios you are living.
So, when my job was outsourced after 23 years to another company and then to another country, I decided to go to college full time. I was a math major, hoping to become a college math professor. But, praise be to God, I took an introductory sociology class, and found a place wherein I could look for the answers that had eluded me. I was eager to start the investigation of all manner of phenomena. Research gave me the space to ask questions and find answers that I hoped would help make the world better.
I miss the formal research, but I am still asking questions, such as how is it that 53 years after the Civil Rights Movement, nearly every day we read of a black person having the police called on them while doing normal things like delivering newspapers, cutting lawns, or sleeping and eating lunch on a college campus? How did we end up as a nation going backwards? How do we find our way forward? I know the answers are there, and so now I read the research of other social scientists to find answers.
But, more importantly, I pray to God for this nation, asking Him to intervene and soften hearts on both sides of the ideological debates, so that civility can rule our disagreements, and to remind us of our common humanity and sense of oneness in Him. Lastly, I ask God to constantly call to our minds of the words of Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Until next time, keep asking questions!