Noticing to Notice

Noticing is something every single human on the planet should do. We should see when a situation or event in front of us is wrong and stand up for what we believe in. We should notice how what we say and what we do affects others. I would describe myself as a very observant person, I notice a lot and almost everything. However, it is hard to notice things when they are unspoken of, which I think happens a lot especially with the ideals of racism especially in the United States because I believe for most of us, it is something we are very ashamed of. This is why it’s important to discuss and talk about especially the history of the medical field. I believe power comes from knowledge. We learn from our mistakes, figure out where we went wrong and how we can fix and improve conditions as we move forward. 

The course epigraph, “my job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice” said by Dionne Brand, is important to everyone. This creates a through-line especially in this class with this subject matter. Specifically, in “Medical Apartheid”, we are shown the wrong doings to black people that were built and structured into the foundations of the medical field. It is our job to notice these wrongdoings, acknowledge that they happened and do better because we believe in change. Because unless we acknowledge these wrong doings nothing will change. We will not become a better society because we did not learn from our horrendous mistakes. In order for us as a whole society to grow from our mistakes, we MUST acknowledge them and figure out what went wrong.  To answer Professor McCoy’s question saying, “does it matter given GLOBE’s insistence that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time?”  Yes, we as educated adults should be able to have the ability to reflect upon our mistakes, learn from them and be better because of them. However, have we as a society become better from our mistakes? Have we fully understood the effects of forcing someone to do something when they are unwilling? Take for example the circumstances of “Clay’s Ark” written by Octavia Butler. These people were taken unwillingly, did NOT want to participate and did not want to be carriers of the disease that would completely change them forever; however, they were forced to do so by people of power in the circumstances. In a lot of circumstances that were written about in Medical Apartheid, the same is true. White people in positions of power and knowledge who should’ve known better based on basic biology and science (although they were not as scientifically advanced as we are now, however not a justifying reason to do the things they did to black people), made people forcibly endure traumatic and tremendously horrifying acts of “research” that more often than not resulted in that same individual’s meaningless death. It was their job to notice how cruel and inhumane they were being to people. The people who they were experimenting on may have looked different than them, but they should’ve noticed they were alike, the same species, that the person they were putting through the worst experience of their life was just like them. And by not noticing they have failed those individuals by becoming doctors who took lives rather than saved them. They have failed to notice and by doing so gives more power to ignorance and hate that had instated within our society. 

This semester, I have focused a lot of my thinking on the ever-changing word, consent. Consent is meaningless unless we learn something from our past mistakes and can notice what our mistakes were. Speaking in the course content, we must learn that consent is needed from the individual being researched on in order to do right by that person. In Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington, we learned how mostly black people were taken forcibly and experimented on resulting in horrific deaths. We learned how black people were put in cages at zoos where white passersby looked and watched them as they would an animal in a cage at a zoo. They literally thought that a black person was a wild animal, inhuman in fact, they needed to be caged. But what they failed to realize is they were looking at a human who was forcibly held in a cage to gain a profit.  It was someone’s job to notice this was wrong. It was a time for someone to say, “this is not okay, this should not be happening”. People began to notice that their family members were going missing, that something was happening to their family members. That something horrible had happened or was happening to them. In these circumstances, Washington investigated. She told her readers that these people were taken forcibly, kidnapped, and experimented on. Although, it was difficult to do anything about it especially since both the hospital and the police force tended to turn their heads in the opposite direction and I think this still happens in the present. Instead of engaging in an uncomfortable topic or conversation, people tend to look the other way and pretend they didn’t see anything. This is why it is both important to notice but also to actively take action against what you think is wrong. 

Before this class, I had absolutely no idea that most of any of these events happened. But now that I do, how could I not notice. How could I not notice that people still are probably experiencing events like those in Medical Apartheid, how could I not notice how racism is still heavily engraved and rooted deeply within this country. How could I not believe that everyone should read this book? Everyone should know the truth about how the medical field was started.  And when I notice these things, how could I not do something about it? How can I go on as an educated adult who wants to make the world a better place but not even acknowledge that things like this actually happened? By acknowledging that it happened, by acknowledging that these attitudes are still very much present in our society, I can learn and grow. However may challenging this material at times was hard to read, hard to think about and hard to swallow, I think it was a necessary experience to be able to understand and empathize with others. 

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