Slave or Enslaved?

Dionne Brand once said, “My job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice.” To me, this quote is involving both concepts of observation and the act of understanding the things you notice. I feel as if this epigraph is asking me to look beyond my own views and to look as if I am a fly on the wall, looking in on society. The amount of injustice that has been carried throughout history since 1619 is extremely unfortunate, which still continues today. Reading literature such as Medical Apartheid and Fortune’s Bones, along with the view points of my classmates has given me a new perspective on these topics. 

Unlike some other classmates, I chose to be in this class out of interest. The ideas this class focused on was one I had never been exposed to. The ideas being expressed in this class have been foreign to me, combining the topics of literature, medicine, and racism. Although I have been exposed to different forms of literature throughout my schooling, I have never been thoroughly exposed to these different ideas. I feel as though my confusion is based solely on my lack of understanding from the beginning of my education career.. Although I may not be the most informed about many things, my interests have peaked and I am extremely interested in learning more.

I have been fascinated by medicine and the medical profession as a whole since I could speak. My interest in the realms of medicine is another reason I jumped on this course. Since I was young I always dreamed of being able to help others, figuring out their pain, their mental anguish, being able to lend a helping hand. Yet, while reading the first few beginning chapters of Medical Apartheid, I am left at a standstill. This career I have always dreamt of being apart of had once done this to the people they were trying to help? Was this going to hinder my knowledge and abilities to become apart of this profession now that I know about the acts of my colleagues? I have yet to answer these questions.

In Medical Apartheid, Washington explores the 19th century during the times when students in the medical field relied on black bodies to train the physicians.  Students used the bodies to conduct experiments, provide further medical research, and allow themselves to understand the human body and all it has to offer throughout the medical field.  Washington says, “Most physicians of the day also believed that blacks had low intellectual capacities” which opens discussion for the topics of genetics and predisposed disabilities. The use of African Americans for further medical practices has left me astonished. Since slavery began in 1619, when privateer The White Lion brought African Americans from the British colonies into the United States, African Americans have been belittled and degraded. Doctor McCoy has helped me develop new ideas, particularly using with the terms “slave” and “enslaved person”. I was never aware of the difference and the impact it had on the people it surrounded. I am shocked at the lack of knowledge I have about a time period that wasn’t that long ago. I feel as if my school has let me down, and the people they have hurt when teaching these subjects. To refer to someone as a slave, is demeaning, and is characterizing them by a term that they have no control over. The word is defined as, “a human being classed as property and who is forced to work for nothing.” While the word enslaved person is, “a human being who is made to be a slave.” Enslaved person offers humanity back to not only the one being spoken about, but the society surrounding it.

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