English 101: Literature, Medicine & Racism, Goal Setting Essay

When I signed up for this class, I did not know what to expect. I thought this would be like most english classes where we are given some books and just write a paper about it with a given prompt. However, I noticed during the first class that this would be an english class I have never taken before. The first thing we did in class was talk about how we can grow and help one another grow. Everyone started at a different writing and reading level before signing up for the class but we should all have the same goal of growth. The past english classes I have taken the teachers typically assume everyone is at the same level and just want us to write. This class puts a lot of emphasis on our readings and doing a lot of analysis. We talk a lot about our readings and we get many perspectives when do our discussions. In fact, we talked about a semicolon in Fortune’s “The Manumission Requiem Bones” by Marilyn Nelson for nearly a whole class. This kind of in-depth analysis was not what I expected. We come back to many ideas which give us readers and students more time to analyze the text. This helps my growth since going back helps me think about ideas we talk about in class. This is especially useful when one of my classmates talks about something in the reading that I did not think about.

As the course has progressed, we have put a strong emphasis on analysis when breaking down text. We do a lot of thinkING, conversING, considerING, and reflectING. The “ING” being capitalized points out the act of doing. The Epigraph to our class “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice” (Dionne Brand) puts a strong focus on pay close attention to the readings and how they can relate to modern times. It also reminds us to keep track and recognize growth not only from ourselves but also our peers. I believe this is the most important part of the class as Dr. McCoy has talked about growth since our first class. For myself, in order to grow, I think the best way would be participating more and having more thoughtful discussions with the class. This would be done best if everyone else in the class also continues to grow. When we grow together, our class becomes more of a community as opposed to just a learning center. We also wanted to make sure we defined faith and what separates the good from bad. When we have our discussions, it is important to keep in mind that what people may say even if it is controversial is all in good faith.

As mentioned earlier, we spent a lot of time analyzng a semicolon in Fortune’s Bone. We were asked questions by Dr. McCoy such as “why is it there” and “what is the importance of it”. We even went back and defined what a semicolon was which was something we learned in our middle school and late high school days. This deep analysis provided commentary for our class and we worked together to try and figure out its significance. We also spent a lot of time on the line “Fortune was born; he died ” (Nelson, p.13). Even though this line was short, it clearly carried a lot of significance. Most of the class interpreted it as him being alive through his mind but not his body. However, I had a different opinion. I thought of this line as Fortune having such an insignificant life that after being born, his greatest accomplishment in life was death. The reasoning behind this was that he was meerly used as a test subject and for observation. However, after our class had the discussion, I heard different ideas such as after fortune was born, his legacy died with him. These kind of group discussions contribute a significant amount to my growth because I never would have thought about that line with that perspective.

It is important to not forget the official name of this class “Literature, Medicine, and Racism”. In many of our readings, we have indulged in racism in the past, specifically in medicine. A reading that we spent a long amount of time on was Harriet Washington’s Medical Aparthied. The story about a character who was dealing with racism in medicine opened my eyes to a whole new world of racism. It was almost hard to read when she talks about how dehumanized black people were. She goes in great detail about how black people were basically called zoo animals which was mentioned in  chapter 2 “circus africanus”. She also mentions how black people, similar to Fortune’s Bone, were used as test subjects for white doctors. They would be dissected without prior consent and were give medication without understanding the possible side effects. Although it was difficult to read through due to how vulgar it was, it contributed to my growth which I am thankful for.

Although we are only about one month into this semester, I feel like I have grown a lot. I feel as if having the perspectives of by classmates and peers has helped my understanding of our readings. Not only have I grown, but I have noticed many of my peers grow. In order to maintain confidentiality I will not name them but I have noticed more participation from them. They provide a lot of thoughtful insight that our class can debrief and think about. My hope is that we can all grow as a community as opposed to individuals in a room where we talk. I had a shaky start to the semester as I did not speak my differing opinion as much as I should have. I can monitor my growth as we continue to do our self-reflections and staying on top of the work that is given to us.

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