Watching: A Self Reflection

This semester, many things have been drawn to my attention and I have been able to see others noticing things that were brought to their attention. This class has helped me understand what it truly means to notice things. It isn’t just about paying attention to ideas,  phrases or characters, it is about understanding and deeply thinking about what you have seen or heard. The course epigraph is “My job is to notice…and to notice that you notice” a quote by Dionne Brand. This epigraph was what drove the class, either by being talked about directly or by being in the back of our minds. 

Throughout the class and the books we have read, I have noticed many things. I have watched my peers read passages of the books we are reading and everyone has different things that are called to their attention. I have seen many whole class discussions where one person has seen something in a passage and others are able to relate and elaborate. I have also said things within discussions that people have bounced their ideas off of. The literature we have read creates pathways for meaningful discussions to occur. 

One discussion that really made an impact on me was our discussion about words. When reading Zone One by Colson Whitehead, there were many words in the book that not many people knew, and so we discussed these words. The conversation stood out to me because it made me think about how different everyone really is, just by saying words differently.  Even just within the state of New York, there are so many different accents and ways to say things. Everyone is different and that is okay. I also saw something similar happen within Zulus by Percival Everett. The book had many misspellings throughout and some people caught it while others did not. This also speaks to the fact that people may spell things wrong but others will still understand what they mean, just like when people say things differently, the idea is still the same. 

One of the first things we did in class was take a bouncy ball and bounce it off the wall. This was to symbolize how thinking and noticing works. This was the first thing we did to introduce the epigraph, showing that everyone has different things that they are aware of. Everyone also has their own ideas that we can bounce off of each other. We all start with one common idea and many others form from that. We can discuss what certain things mean in a book or a passage and each person has their own interpretation of what it means. Such as when we discussed the book Zulus by Percival Everett, and how ideas within that book may be represented in other pieces of literature. I saw that the idea of the body as the most important thing in medical research was also represented in the book Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson when we were shown that the bones of the man underwent many medical experiences. This connected to Zulus because the main character also was the subject of medical experimentation that she did not specifically want. I saw this happen to my peers throughout the semester, more so towards the middle and end. More people began to connect the texts within the group discussions, which allowed others to see those connections and make them personal. As people became more comfortable in groups and with each other, discussions flourished. 

My peers were able to connect ideas found in one book to a previous book we had read, as many ideals and concepts were repeated throughout the literature. Such as the idea that many minorities struggled with the medical field for equal protection against harmful procedures. This idea was prevalent in many of the books we read. 

Within the main book we always connected back to, Medical Aparthied by Harriet Washington, the author discussed many horrible experiments that African Americans had to endure. Even in the first chapter, the author discusses the fact that “Enslavement could not have existed and certainly could not have persisted without medical science” (pg 26). This quote is important because it describes how the world of slavery could not have existed without the medical world. If people had stopped preforming medical experiments on slaves, slavery would have ended because there would not have been as large of a need for them. The book also discusses how African Americans have been used as medical testers for years and how these abuses have harmed society as a whole. 

We connected our other readings back to this book because each other piece of literature has had that same idea embedded within itself. Each story we read in class discussed some minority, real or imaginary, that had injustices against them. Such as Zone One and the groups killing the zombies, and in Medical Aparthied, the doctors killing slaves for research. The doctors used medicine and research to justify killing innocent slaves, just as those in Zone One used the zombies taking over the land to justify killing them, rather than just containing them. Each book had a similar connection to the course materials and the course epigraph. This idea connects to the course epigraph because within each piece of literature, there was something you could notice that you also saw in another book. The course epigraph helped us see the connections between the books. The epigraph also helped the class to work through each book on its own, because it allowed us to make connections to other parts of the same book. 

Throughout the course and the semester, I have grown in my writing and seen how others have as well. It was a privilege to be in this class with all of these people, learning about something that not many people get a chance to learn. I enjoyed being in this class this semester and look forward to how it can help me in the future.

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