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Sociological Autobiography

Sociological Autobiography                                                                                                                            

My name is X Y; I was born in 1986 in Bangladesh, a small country with a rich cultural heritage. The most fundamental part of my life was spent in Bangladesh with my mother and her side of the family, while my father was away in United States. The only sibling I have is my sister, who is currently happily married. I am a 24-year-old student, aspiring to join X Y College. Education is an essential part of my life as it presents me with skills towards gaining knowledge; it instills values of proper conduct as per societal norms; and provides me with the necessary technical expertise to bring about the desired societal change in future (Mills, 2000). Although my life has been ridden with many challenges so far, I plan to overcome them one at a time someday. My primary goal is to excel in school, both to obtain a better future and to make my parents proud. While employing C.Wright Mills’ idea that sociology describes the intersection between history and biography, I will reflect on the problems that I have faced in my biographical background that are connected to the social institutions and in the large part to the social culture located in history

Growing up in Bangladesh was like a dream, as I believed that I had it all; friends, family, love, care and everything one could possibly yearn for. I always took for granted the simple, joyful and fun-filled life in Bangladesh, such that if I were given the wish of backdating time, I would go back and relieve those precious moments. Back in Bangladesh, as per societal values, the meaning attached to the word ‘family’ was different, owing to the strong bonds, ties and connections we shared as family members (Mills, 2000). We believed in strong family ties and togetherness, in both good and bad times. Family’s reputation is an integral part of the Bangladeshi culture, where the reputation of one family member is a symbol of the entire family’s reputation. For this reason, most families in Bangladesh are very careful in their children’s upbringing, as they will be judged based on the performance of their children in the society.

In 1990, my father won the Diversity Visa lottery, leaving my family under the care of my mother’s parents when I was at the age of four years. Although I was still young, I vowed to take care of my family, as I was the only son. My mother was from a big family of six sisters and one brother. All my aunts, in exception of three were married by then. After moving in, my aunts were in charge of our upbringing, while my grandfather was in charge of our excellence in studies. My grandfather translated into my favorite personal tutor, but this was not true in my sister’s case as he always scolded her for attaining poor grades in school (Mills, 2000). Although, I was my grandfather’s favorite in terms of studies, I was rebellious in such circumstances as when my mother forcefully put me to sleep in the afternoon. I would always find a way of sneaking out of the room, to join my friends in the playground. My mother was always aware of this phenomenon and whenever I sneaked out, she would follow me to the playground to ensure that I did not involve myself in any type of fighting.

Being the little menace I was, how can anyone blame her for following me? Especially, when other parents came complaining due to the fights I had with their children. A day never passed without my mother receiving negative complaints on my behavior. At that point in my life, cartoons, games, sports and friends were everything to me. I loved and enjoyed playing cricket, soccer, badminton and a variety of other sports as well as playing with video games. Back then, I had not arrived at an understanding of the cultural aspect of family values and norms. However, when I reflect on my past today, I can comfortably understand that my current personality is based on the values I acquired from watching my grandfather’s behavior and his social interaction with our family and the society at large (Mills, 2000). He instilled in me the social aspects of kindness, respect and good manners when interacting with diverse people in the social structure. Additionally, he always encouraged and motivated me to excel in school. I always admired my grandfather for the respect he was accorded everywhere he went and although, he is long gone, he definitely influenced my life significantly.

Whenever my father visited Bangladesh, all my family members and relatives gathered to discuss the cultural differences between Bangladesh and America. In their discussions, some would ask questions based on the American politics, government, law enforcement, education and freedom. In turn, my father would explain that the American culture and way of socialization was completely different from that of Bangladesh, owing to such factors as a strong legal system, strict laws, human rights, a better education system and diverse social, cultural and political opportunities (Mills, 2000). In addition, he supported the American social belief in equality and freedom of religion regardless of a person’s background, origin and social imagination. After listening to their discussions, I would go and share the vital information acquired, with my friends and neighbors, who would completely disagree with the social institutions set-up in America.

Some religious groups based on the available information, viewed the American people as non-believers based on their shunning of religious beliefs owing to their lack of faith in God and religious practices. They also viewed the American culture as a symbol of cultural and social degradation as the female gender in America dresses openly in public, which can be translated into promiscuity in Bangladesh’s cultural and religious aspects (Mills, 2000). Essentially, societal norms are not expressed in parents-children relationships in America, owing to the fact that children do not respect their parents and in turn, parents are forced to throw out their children following a certain period. Due to this factor, many social groups espoused that I would be influenced by peer pressure after relocating to America such that I would engage in the social evils of eating haram food, drink alcohol, disrespecting my parents and converting to Christianity.

As per the views of my peers in Bangladesh, the American culture translated to both positive and negative aspects. Negativity was linked to the oppressiveness of the American foreign policy, which is based on the aggressive domination of inferior countries. At that time, I did not posses any experience for agreeing or disagreeing with their expansive views. The day I relocated to New York with my family ten years ago, is still fresh in my mind. It was one of the best moments in my life, as well as an unexpected life changing experience that I will never forget. To date, I still cannot come to terms with leaving behind my friends, family and the people I grew up with, as it was one of the hardest experiences in my life. By then I was only fourteen years old and I was not prepared for the cultural shock that hit my mother, sister and I. To me, embracing another culture would encompass a lot of getting used to (Mills, 2000).

After a few weeks of living in New York, I was enrolled in 8th grade, at the beginning of middle school. School in America was completely different as compared to school life in Bangladesh because, instead of staying in the same class and experiencing a change of teachers for different lessons as in Bangladesh, here in America I had to switch classes for the different lessons. In middle school, I experienced various challenging tasks with the most prevalent translating to language barrier. This hindered my level of communication with the teachers and students due to my poor command of English (Mills, 2000). Making friends was another challenge that forced me to take lunch all by myself. The type of food served at the cafeteria was another challenge and I could not eat well because I was not aware of the different types of food and I had to be careful to stick to my Islamic religion when consuming food.

In this case, the first waves of culture shock based on language barrier, culture and different lifestyle hit me badly in school, though I had a few friends who were trying to help me to adjust. In sociological terms, I was going through the negotiation phase as the differences between my old culture and the new culture became apparent, therefore causing anxiety and low adaptability level for the new culture (Mills, 2000). I always felt left out because, I lacked the superior communication, cultural and socialization skills required for blending into a new culture. At this time, I missed my family and friends back in Bangladesh and wished that I could go back to the culture I had been used to all my life. This was remedied by the interest I developed for computers in school. My first impression after the exposure was that I had to learn the function of these machines but no student was willing to assist me in the learning process. I watched them as they navigated their way through them and by the time I joined high school, I had gained superior computer knowledge as compared to my classmates.

The social institution installed in America inspired me to learn English at a higher perspective due to the opportunities that I was missing with my poor command of English. After learning English, I moved into the sociological phase of adjustment owing to the fact that I could make new friends easily, which was later followed by the mastery phase. I have been going through the mastery phase but the sociological structure of America still hinders me from referring it to as home. Socialization and social interactions are fundamental for adaptability to a different culture and social structure. In turn, peer pressure can affect a person either positively of negatively (Mills, 2000). As per my case, I have faced both sides of peer pressure. When my father advised me against making friends with the Bengali, I shunned it, as they were the only people I could culturally confer with. Back then, I did not agree with him but based on my current situation I would have taken the advice to heart if accorded with the chance.

In socialization, I made friends from the Bengali, Asian, White, and African-American communities. My favorite friends were from the Bengali community because their culture was closely related to the Bangladesh culture and I felt as a member of one of their sub-groups. The diversity of the social structure of the American culture caused different frictions in our family, which pushed me to skipping class and hanging out with my Bengali friends in order to feel better on the onset of culture shock (Mills, 2000). To blend into their culture, I was forced to mimic their social way of life. I adopted their street slang and their way of dressing, which encompassed baggy jeans. They were more comfortable with this way of life, but due to the values and norms instilled in me by my grandfather, I came to the realization that this was not my way of life. My performance in school had been negatively affected. I vowed to work hard to make my parents proud even though they never provided me with the motivation I required

Despite the many challenges experienced in America, socialization changed my notion about the diverse culture, but this changed on the onset of 9/11. The occurrence of the tragedy met me at home, as I was watching the television and I had to summon my family to come and watch what was going on, as this did not seem as the reality. The aftermath of the occurrence was ridden with racial segregation against Muslims because the perpetrator of the bomb was an Arabic Muslim. Before 9/11, I never faced racial discrimination in school but after, I faced the full ugly side of racial segregation (Mills, 2000). Fellow students started to fear me because I was a Muslim and as I was playing in school one day with my friends, one student confiscated our basketball, when I demanded for its return, he told me to go back to my country, as I was an enemy of America.

In Muslim Americans in The News Before and After 9/11the author asserts that, “perfectly peaceful Arab- and Muslim-Americans as well as persons “looking like them” became the victims of hate crimes and of the stereotypical image of Muslims and Arabs as perpetrators of violence and terrorists” (Nacos & Torres-Reyna, 2002). Nine years have passed since this incidence but the stereotyping views against Muslims have not diminished. Just because they conform to a different culture does not belittle their social structure (Mills, 2000). The media instead of educating people on the positive social values, they contributed to the negative social values exhibited against the Islamic culture. The social institutions created after 9/11, have prevailed as socialization cannot replace the societal norms and values acquired from media presentations after the incidence. This clearly indicates the fundamental role of the media in creating different social institutions, norms and values.

We have continued to experience racial segregation as a family owing to our cultural difference such that after we ordered furniture and it was not delivered after two weeks, we were insulted by the owner of the store after demanding for the refund of our money. When we contacted the police, no action was taken after they discussed with the storeowner and the identity of our Islamic culture was revealed. It is saddening to realize that though American culture boasts of different cultural contributions, the social institution in place are still discriminative of certain diverse cultures (Mills, 2000). Living in America for tens years has provided me with different mental and physical sociological changes which might or might not be translated into the American dream. I have embraced a different social structure in America but this does not mean that I am not aware of my original social structure. As per my biography I do not have a clear realization of the real me because my past and present personality depends on the social culture built from history.

References

Mills, C. W. (2000). The Sociological Imagination. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Nacos, B., L. & Torres-Reyna, O. (2002). Muslim Americans in the News before and

After 9-11. Harvard Symposium Restless Searchlight: The Media AND Terrorism, 4 (5), 1-15.

 

 

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