It is amazing to hear a black person criticize another black person for being poor and lazy to work. Black people are told very often that they have an unreasonable dependence on the government. This is mind bungling simply because no black person should want structural oppression and exclusion explained to them as they should have first-hand experience no matter how well-off they may think they are – even the so called “clever blacks”. Wright Mills explains how we should comprehend personal problems in relation to social issues, even the “clever blacks” are victims.
According to C.Wright Mills (1959) “the sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the historical scene… for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals.” Mills developed this concept of THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION to attempt to explain and help us understand how society works. This perspective helps us understand the relationship between personal problems and social issues, which influence personal experience more than we realise. The SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION enables us to understand and trace how social issues have influenced our private personal journeys.
For example, we may look at people who are black and poor occupying land and think that they are criminals who are lazy and depend on government to build them houses. Through the SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION we will realise the historical injustices and prejudice that black people have had to deal with in this country even post-apartheid, the personal suffering of black people and the state of their poverty and landlessness is not a result of personal problems but social issues of abuse, exclusion and economic harassment by the current democratic government. The SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION perspective provides reasons as to why individual problems exist.
The idea of a “born free” is a perfect example of the theory of SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION in a South African context. Imagine a child whose parents were born around the 1950/60s and were denied the opportunity to go to school and as a result left with no choice but to become a gardener or a domestic worker. If this person gives birth to a child after 1994 how does it make that child a “born free”? What is the child free from? This child will struggle to have access to quality education, healthcare and job opportunities even under a democratic government. What is the child free from? This illustrates how social issues in various environments lead to personal problems that individuals have no or little control over. A small section of the theory in discussion encourages individuals not to rightfully take full responsibility of their personal problems which should make a significant part of the debate of social inequality.