Noticing and ThinkING

The idea that “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice” reminds us that we should hold each other accountable for what we have been working on. For example, we have discussed as a group common ideas from our texts. We have focused on big details from our readings such as analysis of a character and we have even focused on the small things such as a semicolon. This goes back to Dionne Brand’s words that we have been talking about all semester. These group discussions have allowed us to not only account for ourselves but for our peers as well. We hold each other accountable to ensure that we can maximize our growth with the time we have spent together. Throughout the course, I have noticed significant growth from both myself and my peers. I noticed more people participating at the end of the semester in our discussions than earlier. Also, our discussions as a group have been much more about thinkING which is something I have noticed with my peers. When I first signed up for this course, I did not expect to do as much thinkING as we did. All of the other English classes I have ever taken involve reading a book within a week or two and then writing a paper with a given prompt. However, in this course, we have taken analysis to another level. We spent months on a few books and discussed it in-depth. If I did not know about this course I would assume that it would be much higher than a 100-level english course. As the course has progressed, I have noticed growth in my writing and analysis. As we were constantly thinkING about our course epigraph, I noticed that the more accountability that is held leads to greater growth. We have seen our course epigraph throughout multiple books and articles we have read this semester. Something that is important when holding each other accountable is to ensure that it is done in good faith.

Since the beginning of the semester, the idea of good and bad faith came up quite often. The idea that whether or not an action has good or bad intentions behind it. We want everything to be in good faith but that is not always the case. In our most recent collaborative essay, we talked about reparations in the United States. This was an excellent piece to discuss as everyone had something to say. As the group continued to discuss the reparations being made, most of us agreed that the reparations prepared were not enough to fix the issue of racial injustice. Our group focused on “empty promises” as many of said reparations have not happened. This idea helped guide us to the main topic of lack of identity. In the reparation reading, it is as if Black people in America had no say in what should be fixed. There were other people speaking for what they wanted and what should be done. William A. Darity, Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, the co-authors of Here to Equality: Reparation for Black Americans in the Twenty-first Century, quote Barack Obama’s statement that  “…I fear that reparations would be an excuse for some to say “we’ve paid our debt” and to avoid the much harder work of enforcing our anti-discrimination laws in employment and housing; the much harder work of making sure that our schools are not separate but unequal; the much harder work of lifting thirty-seven million Americans of all races out of poverty” (Darity, Mullen). This quote shows one of the issues with the reparations. The idea that this is only being done in order to “pay back” for their mistakes is not impossible. It will take more than just reparations to make up for it. Through group discussions, we were able to work together and talk through the issues that the article mentioned. Relating it back to course epigraphic, the group had active discussions where everyone’s input was taken into consideration. The article has not been the only time where I have noticed growth amongst myself and others.  Books such as Medical Apartheid  have involved discussions of our course epigraph.

In Medical Apartheid, by Harriet A. Washington, the class was exposed to the dark history of medical experimentation involving Black people. I am sure the class had an idea about the past being bad for Black people but Medical Apartheid showed the true horrors. A topic that has been brought up in class is consent. Washington goes in-depth about how Black people were used for medical experimentation without prior consent. Dr. T. Stillman used many different medical techniques on the “unhealthy blacks” without getting consent (103). He even specifically requested ones that could not be helped even with treatment (103). Just like the rest of the class, I was shocked to find out that something like this was allowed back then. This kind of discovery has contributed to self-growth as I have been exposed to this new information. The class was required to do much more thinkING as we had to make connections to our other readings.

We have read multiple books at the same time and have had many discussions about how the books relate to each other. For example, while reading Medical Apartheid, we had deep discussion about Fortune’s Bones. In our first collaborative essay, we were able to make multiple connections for these books along with Home by Toni Morrison. The groups were asked to discuss how the authors use names and imagination to describe identity. My group was able to do a lot of thinkING and found that the use of names would help give characters a “real” identity as opposed to any person. With the collective effort of my group, we were able to make this conclusion that connected all the readings. This contributed to growth as we were able to work together and come to the same conclusion. 

Another book that related to our course epigraph was Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson. This book was written in honor of a skeleton that was identified to be from a slave named Fortune. Similar to when Washington wrote Medical Apartheid, Nelson helped give an identity to the skeleton. However, all that we really knew about Fortune came from his skeleton. “His bones say only that he served and died, that he was useful, even into death, stripped of his name, his story, and his flesh” (13). Even with an identity, no one knew anything about him. His body was used for medical experimentation and the only thing that people know about him is that he was used for science. After death, his body was still considered property to the Porter family. In our first collaborative essay, my group discussed the purpose of identifying Fortune. I mentioned earlier that it was to honor the skeleton but my group believed that a fake name made it easier to accept the magnitude of suffering that he went through. I would have never come to the conclusion by myself. However, after hearing my group’s thoughts and ideas, I was able to have a stronger understanding of the reading. This has contributed to my growth as I was able to look at the bigger picture.

Overall, the course epigraph has played a major role in the development of my peers and myself. We were constantly reminded of the course epigraph and held each other accountable for our growth. In terms of my own growth, I can say that I see a significant improvement. I noticed that I have been participating much more actively in our discussions both as a class and in our groups. Before this class, I would rarely participate in courses that focus on reading and writing since I always thought that I did not understand as well as my classmates. However, I was ensured by Dr. McCoy and the class that all criticism was in good faith and I should use that as an opportunity to grow. I have noticed a lot of growth in my peers as well. I noticed more people participating in discussions towards the end of semester than in the beginning. I also noticed the growth in their writing when we do our collaborative essays. In our collaborative essays, everyone’s ideas were taken into consideration and no one was left out. Everyone played a significant role in completing the collaborative essay. GLOBE mentions that students should “encounter broad areas of knowledge, become specialists in a particular discipline, develop habits of critical inquiry and civic participation, reflect on their learning, and reach beyond themselves by exploring the diversity of human experiences, culture, and viewpoint”. I feel that after taking this class, I am able to apply the GLOBE teachings to my other classes as well. We did a lot of thinkING which helps me go beyond just memorizing facts. It feels as if my analysis of readings is much stronger after taking this class. I also feel much more confident about speaking up and sharing my ideas in my other classes.

References:

Nelson, M., & Espeland, P. (2004). Fortune’s bones: The manumission requiem. Front Street.

Washington, Harriet. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. First Anchor Books, 2006. Print

William A. Darity, Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, From Here to EqualityReparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 2020

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