A few posts ago, I talked about why I was re-choosing to go to law school and do the dual degree in law and sociology. I was talking to a friend today, and one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to law school is that I’m bored.
Of what? you ask. I enjoy working on my current project, that looks at the role of racial inequality in how middle-class black parents raise their kids. It’s about how they navigate their class privilege with their low racial status, and how this differentiates them from middle-class whites and lower-class blacks. And I’m finding som amazing stuff, like the pressures on middle-class black kids to be “black,” not only with their black friends but with their white friends, as they need to establish a racial identity in both spaces. And how one goes about determining what it means to be “black” depends on if they live around black people – middle-class blacks in majority white neighborhoods with limited contact with black people outside of family may have a distorted view of what it means to be “black” that may be informed mostly be media images. Fascinating stuff, right?
But (most) in my department don’t find it so fascinating. An example – a few weeks ago, we had to rank which classes we wanted to TA. One of my fellow grad students summed up a lot of what I think many in the department feel – anything about race or ethnicity, he struck as “boring.” I asked him what was boring about them, and he was just like, “Oh, things that just don’t interest me.” It’s really hard to have a discussion about race in our department because most people just aren’t interested.
I talk a lot in all classes. Most things about sociology are interesting to me, and I try to really engage with it all. But it’s hard when with the thing you are really passionate about, others do not reciprocate that same engagement, or approach everything you say with such non-helpful antagonism. How many comments have I gotten that, “Well, white people have that problem too?” Even when I talk about the role of race in parenting!
So, one reason I want to go to law school is to engage with some different people. I understand that when I came here, I was expected to work with a professor who left before I even arrived, so my interests are somewhat outside of the department’s main strengths. So, the concentration of interest in things that aren’t my main interest is not really anyone’s fault. I’m hoping in the law school, where personal statements are usually not about any substantive area of law, I’ll find people and professors who want to talk about the stuff I want to talk about, even if they vehemently disagree. While those white people in college who disagreed with everything I thought about race were not my best friends, I was at least able to have conversations that stretched my thinking and challenged my own assumptions.
Right now, in sociology, I just feel like I’m swimming all alone with only a life vest in a huge ocean. And I can’t swim. I can stay afloat, but I can’t go anywhere. Without the joint degree, I feel like I’d be seriously alone, having to chart this course all by myself. I have a great mentor outside of the department, but she has her own students in her own school plus her own work to do. So a big reason for why I am going to law school is that I just can’t see myself spending 3+ more years only in sociology.