More Than Just Myself

Because I’m a small picture type of person, I tend to break statements, concepts, or facts down in an effort to better understand them. Thus, when I read the course epigraph, I broke it down into 2 parts: “job is to notice” and “to notice that you can notice.” Interestingly enough, after analyzing each part and trying to make connections to our readings or discussions, I found that the interpretation of the epigraph changes depending on which text you associate with it.

I first looked at the epigraph using the first text we worked with in the class: the They Say I Say excerpts. Graff’s and Birkenstein’s They Say, I Say taught us the “never ending conversation” and the concept of the “I say” being a response to someone else’s “they say” (13). If we were to look at “I notice” in the They Say, I Say context, then I think “I notice” could mean to identify and contribute an “I say”: as an English student, it is my “job” to “notice” interesting things in the texts and bring them into the ongoing conversation. If this is the case, then “to notice that you can notice” could refer to the importance of bringing other people into the conversation. Because I can notice and be part of the ongoing conversation, there are others who can also notice and contribute. As a participant of the ongoing conversation, it’s my “job” to “notice” that there might be others who also have things to say and to invite them into the ongoing conversation if they are struggling to enter it. This sounds similar to a concept called “ethical communication” which I’ve studied in various communication classes at Geneseo. According to what I’ve learned in those classes, when people communicate ethically, they ensure that both themselves and other participants of the conversation are able to get their communication needs fulfilled by the conversation (whether the need is encouragement, information, or someone to listen). This includes the need to speak or the need to share; ethical communicators take note when others are struggling to enter an ongoing conversation and help pave the path for them.

However, if we look at the course epigraph using Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid, then we can interpret “I notice” and “to notice that you can notice” differently. “I notice” could mean realizing something about your surroundings or the social system which you live in. Upon reflecting on Medical Apartheid‘s introduction, I realized that Washington went through an “I notice” moment during her time at the poison-control center when she realized the hospital had plans to help a white man with kidney failure but not a black man with kidney failure (14). “To notice that you can notice” could then be a statement regarding the sharing of knowledge: if I can notice this, then you also have the ability to notice this. This could tie back into one of the potential reasons Washington wrote Medical Apartheid; Washington states she intended it to be an informative documentation of “the troubled history of medical experimentation with African Americans” (5). It is important to share because sharing information allows one to draw attention to important aspects (such as things hidden in history).

My goal for this semester is to practice the “notice you can notice” portion. I’m confident in the “I notice” portion, but I think I need to remind myself that everything is a conversation: it requires more than one voice, more than one contributor, and more than just myself. If I am in the conversation, I want to help pave the path for those who want to enter the ongoing discussion but are perhaps having trouble doing so. Part of this is learning to speak in an accessible manner; sometimes I find myself incorporating a lot of jargon or abbreviations or allusions into what I say without explaining the events or the terms. I want to do better at explaining the jargon and references I’m making so that I don’t unintentionally exclude people from the conversation. Aside from that, I also want to be more aware of how aspects of our everyday life (medicine, hospitals, etc.) were founded on grounds of violence and draw attention to that by sharing what I know.

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