The course epigraph— My job is to notice… and notice that you can notice— has become so ingrained into my understanding of how American Ways: Literature, Medicine, and Racism connects itself. There have been so many different opportunities that demonstrate what it means to be noticING from the beginning of this course and continuously into the future. In my goal setting essay, The Process of NoticING and ThinkING, I stated that it was my goal to create a “proper process of noticING and thinkING, and take what I unpack with those processes and apply it to my understanding of the course themes: literature, medicine, and racism.” Furthering this, I also contended that my ability to think and notice is critical for stimulating legitimate discussions with peers. Reflecting on this goal, it has been proven that having a process, being actively engaged with works, and continually circling back to previous experiences creates a greater opportunity for noticING critical themes and ideas.
One of the major components of our class is the collaborative nature structuring the work throughout the semester. Historically, for myself, I have usually dreaded doing group projects because they can easily become overwhelming in the effort of figuring out how we’ll meet outside class time, figuring out who does what part, etc. Group work had been “You do this part, I’ll do this part, they’ll do this part,” and that was it; really it was separate assignments just stapled together and labeled “group” work. What became relieving is that Dr. McCoy’s collaborative assignments are constructed to foster discussion and unpack course texts. In my previous experience with group work, this stage was non-existent and I believe that is where group work fails.
However, with the collaborative projects in Literature, Medicine, and Racism the emphasis on peer collaboration proved to be significant and rewarding. Within the first collaborative essay that we worked on, my peers and I used what we pulled from course texts including Home, Fortune’s Bones, and Medical Apartheid. Through unpacking and starting to interpret the evidence we as a group had brought into the discussion, it was clear just how important it was that I had attempted to use a thorough process with these texts. By closely reading and picking out what appeared to be significant passages and moments within the text, then revisiting them again after unpacking in a class discussion, allowed not only for my understanding but also for active engagement with my group. One example of the benefit this had was when we had that moment in which our discussions—which resulted in what seemed like so many pages of just notes and brainstorming—clicked and one of the group members just said out loud what would be our throughline. In our essay, The Power of Identity and Imagination, our throughline reads “the act of stripping one’s name, and therefore reimagining their identity as an individual, which makes it easier to ignore the consequences of treating African American individuals as objects rather than humans.” Reflecting on our process, I think that we were able to get to this conclusion after a group member brought us to “Kyrie of the Bones” in the requiem Fortune’s Bones. Within the first stanza of the poem, “I called him Larry. It was easier to face him with an imaginary name” (Nelson 21), a group member offered their connection to Medical Apartheid and the chapter that discusses a professor’s use of cadavers in their classroom claiming that students couldn’t learn just by watching the professor. This was his attempt to justify stealing Black bodies and using them without consent. Now that we had brought together all of our textual examples of imagination and naming, we had the breakthrough which led us to our connection.
Synthesizing and noticing themes and elements of the course texts proved to be so significant in our classroom discussions, and in turn our real world ones as well. In the last collaboration effort in the course, our group had the entire course content to think about and connect to the work of William Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen From Here to Equality. What became so apparent is that the ways we were thinking and what we were noticing from early on were still A) evident in what we read and unpacked in the later half of the semester and B) still fresh in our minds. For example, we ventured all the way back to Toni Morrison’s Home from Module 3 and discussed the implications of reducing the character Cee to just someone who needs Frank in order to live her own life. We synthesized that by reducing Cee to this one quality or aspect, her autonomy and her identity become seemingly absent as this leads to harm and having herself walked over by others. We ultimately decided after our periods of discussion to focus more on Zone One, Clay’s Ark, and Zulus in crafting and synthesizing our connection to the effects of limiting a person’s capabilities.
Reflecting on the course epigraph, through both the peer discussions and my own process of thinkING and noticING I feel that I am leaving this course with a better understanding of racialized harm and some of the ways that has been implemented in the United States. Two of the most prominent themes that I will continually use and explore are Identity and Care, specifically how the two work together. Circling back, the removal of a person’s identity demonstrates the implicit ignorance of care and certain moments in the course have been catalysts for provoking my thoughts and understandings of this. One of the most memorable times I have with Dr. McCoy in Literature, Medicine, and Racism is when we spent a large amount of time analyzing the “Fortune was born; he died,” (Nelson 13). Those five words and the semi colon were given so much focus and attention, but what came out of that were sprouting ideas of thinkING about identity and care. Feeding this idea forward in the course, another notable moment was in the class discussion regarding the literature references within Home, featured in Dr. Beau’s office in which we (readers) noticed Cee did not notice what the books were referencing. Discussing what it meant for Cee and the novel when we noticed the eugenics references and the fairy tale references proved to deepen both the connection to the importance of literally noticing things and also the implicit harm in not noticing.
Literature, Medicine, and Racism has helped me in several different ways relating to my career as an English major. However, the most important aspect I am leaving this class with is the knowledge and ability of how to think about and notice things in a way where I can engage in discussions outside of classrooms. My noticing, as well as my peers’ noticing, has been so instrumental in connecting the inherent danger of eliminating Fortune’s identity to “Larry” to create ease of memory of the racialized harm brought on to him; the implicit harm in making decisions and taking action in the name of others like Frank does with Cee, as well as in Clay’s Ark where saving someone from captivity ultimately led to their death. While the time in Dr. McCoy’s Literature, Medicine, and Racism course has come to an end, I know that like the course content there is always continual looping and feedback needed. Now that I feel I have a process of noticING and thinkING, what it both means to notice (or not), and how noticING leads to greater understanding and application of unpacked content, I can carry this forward into my last semester at Geneseo and hopefully outside this community and into other aspects of my own life as well.