Self-reflection Essay

“My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.”

As the semester comes to an end, we look back on all that has been discussed throughout the class and discover what we hadn’t noticed before. Whether it was due to the ambiguity of the events taking place before our eyes, or just lack of searching we have failed to notice much of anything as a society. Racism is prevalent. Yes, we notice the Black Lives Matter movement and we have witnessed the Civil Rights movements in our history classes, but we as a society have continuously failed to adjust and fix what has been done. However, what I have noticed is how much I have grown as a reader and writer to interpret these works and analyze their context to help reprimand what our society has done to African Americans. Through these connections, I can begin to acknowledge what I can begin to do to enforce the understanding of these victims’ stories to share who we have to thank for our practices today.

Interpreting the readings we can only begin to understand that the major advancements of our country’s medical practices ride on the backs of Black people, Their struggles were ignored and never brought to light in the past, as they were brushed off as a necessary sacrifice for the evolution of medicine. As we have known the study of the Human body was a necessity to advance such practices however there was no care in the experiments placed onto these unwilling participants. Their lives forever changed, or forgotten even. Fannie Lou Hammer was a victim stolen from the story she could have created, Washington’s opening reveals how blatant her disappearance was, “ She might easily have endured the life of quiet desperation dictated by her birth, then vanished without a ripple”(Washington,189). Her fertility was stolen, a life to live and possibly create more was ripped away while unconscious and unconsenting. A child who had merely gone into a Doctor’s to have her stomach fixed was destroyed in more than one way, and then tossed to the side. Much like Doctor Sims’ experiments to explore gynecology, where he is revered for the medical knowledge he had obtained there is little to no acknowledgment for the girls he had practiced on.

Novels like Home give us a vantage point of what it was like to be stripped away of your dignity as we have seen happen to Cee. Cee was a simple woman, who hadn’t had a doubt about the kindness she was presented with when she came to work for the Doctor. In fact, she trusted him to do her no harm once she had begun her job in the comfort of the home. After the doctor had taken her ability to have children and she had healed Miss Ethel broke the news to Cee. Cee had no real reaction, “Cee didn’t know then what to feel about that news, no more than what she felt about Doctor Beau. Anger wasn’t available to her- she had been so stupid, so eager to please”(Morrison,128). Cee was taken advantage of by a well-educated white man that would face no consequences for his actions. It seemed like a part of life in this world where African American women will be taken advantage of then cast off to the side without much of a glance from the civilization around them. If you fell victim to it, that was your own fault plain and simple. Yet they don’t receive the recognition they deserve for furthering our understanding of the human body.

These experiments are not new to our medical history. Many other victims were silenced because of their status in society to increase our medical knowledge. The steps we have taken are not enough to begin to reverse what was done, nor can we truly do so. As a society, we must take accountability and be held for our mistakes, our actions, and face the consequences. How should such debt be paid from us? The blood we have drained and studied cannot simply be returned. Many may ask how we begin our journey to atonement. Through Novels like Home, we may contextualize the feelings that were so ignored by those inflicting these experiments. If we as a society would begin to discuss what has happened and give credit to medical advancement to those subjected to these miserable conditions we may begin to forgive ourselves for all that we have done.

The only way for us to atone for our historical medical mistreatment of African Americans is by giving them a name and recognition for their sacrifices. Unwilling maybe but they were led to the slaughter and forgotten without regard to who they were. We have at least begun to go through the process of our discoveries. Fortune’s bones were a great example of our beginning to give credit where it is due. Fortune was a slave his skeleton used by generations of doctors to examine and yet Nelson uncovers a part of his story throughout her requiem, “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”(Nelson,13). Even though we do not know Fortune’s life, we know how his skeleton was used to train young medical professionals the locations of bones and help study the human body. This may not be good enough but it’s a start to a man who had lost his name and became Larry. Giving him his identity can give his soul peace and his descendants a chance to know who he really was.

As a society, we have a long way to go to give the victims of our past the recognition they deserve. No amount of reparations will undo the forgotten legacies we have destroyed. The only way we can repay those that are gone is to give them their names on the works they helped develop. Every surgery that was performed on slaves that couldn’t give consent or poor people that were ignored by the law to make their lives easier should be recognized as victims, and their captors as villains, not heroes. The conscience that these horrific acts took place should be known by society and shared so we never try this again.

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.


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

Noticing Growth and Change

When I first began to think about myself and this class, and how I wanted to connect that to the ability to notice, or my acknowledgment of my own noticing, I wanted to have a clear and concrete definition of the term before I began. I found that the verb “notice” means “to become aware of.” I think that I became aware of a lot of things this semester, not only about myself but also the content that I learned in this class. I became aware of the fact that I knew very little about the history of experimentation on black bodies in America, and reading Medical Apartheid as well as Fortune’s Bones really opened my eyes to an entire aspect of history that I was never made aware of in school. This was a difficult idea for me to process as I could not believe that more people were not talking about these horrors in schools and these crimes were completely glossed over and ignored in history classes. This also made me aware of the importance of listening to Black voices, especially in the literary space. 

When coming into this class I had expressed how I struggled with participation in class and finding the confidence to share my thoughts with others. This was something I wanted to work on throughout the semester and really try to push myself when it came to how I contributed to the class as a whole. Reading books like Home, I was able to notice growth in the characters, specifically Cee, that in many indirect ways, could relate to my own growth within the class. Throughout most of the novel, Cee is viewed as the “little sister” and the one who needs Frank or Prince to take care of her and protect her. As the novel continues, Cee decides to leave Prince and find independence on her own. While this leads to a world of misfortune at first, it is through her process of recovery from the abuse she endured at her job, that she truly finds who she is and the voice and strength that she has. Cee’s noticing of her own growth and how she is where she needs to be can be seen when she says, “I ain’t going nowhere, Miss Ethel. This is where I belong” (126). This is a huge step for Cee in the novel as she realizes the experiences she went through only made her stronger and she came out the other end with a greater knowledge of who she is as a woman and what she can offer the world. This change was also noticed by her brother Frank as he says, “They delivered unto him a Cee who would never again need his hand over her eyes or his arms to stop her murmuring bones” (128). Just as Cee and Frank saw that growth and change in Cee, I saw a growth in myself throughout this class. I found my voice in this class, and while I will never be the loudest in the room, or the most confident, I was able to share my thoughts and ideas with the class and not only contribute to my own growth, but hopefully the growth of my peers as well. 

When I first heard that we would be writing essays collaboratively in this class I was very concerned. I did not think that I would be able to write something with a group of people and have it be cohesive or done well in any way. This concept was entirely new to me and being in my junior year of completing an English degree, I have written countless essays on my own. My writing became something I was very protective over and passionate about. I genuinely was not sure how I would be able to share the writing experience with others, as it had always been such a personal matter to me. I was very pleasantly surprised when I noticed that writing can very easily be a collaborative venture, and the classmates in my group were able to point out connections in the literature that I would have never thought of on my own. Watching us all bounce ideas off each other and build on each person’s thoughts to create very strong pieces was a very eye-opening experience for me. One of the ways I can connect this to the literature is the way that teamwork is so important and vital in Colson Whitehead’s novel, Zone One. Mark Spitz’s team would not be able to accomplish what they do had they all been separated and working on their own. It is only with their combined efforts that they are able to stay alive and keep the city safe. It is when Mark Spitz is alone, without his team, at the end of the novel when everything becomes much worse with it ending, “He opened the door and walked into the sea of the dead” (322). This novel shows the importance of working as a team and what can be accomplished when we work together. This is something I was also able to notice through the collaborative writing assignments this semester. 

The GLOBE’s statement that Geneseo students should “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time, is something we have been actively doing throughout this course. In my goal-setting essay, I talked about holding myself accountable for the work I put into this class and the contribution I give to my peers during class and small group discussion. This is something I have reflected on frequently throughout the semester, making sure I am holding myself accountable for what I am putting in as well as taking away from this class. We have also reflected on our learning through the collaborative essay reflections. These allowed us to work together in groups to create a document that contained ideas from all of us collectively. We were then able to reflect on the work we did together, and notice what was done well, and what needed to be worked on. This helped in many ways because I was able to come into the next class with my group, and know that maybe I needed to speak up a bit more, or we needed to all discuss our ideas more thoroughly as a collective group. We were constantly reflecting throughout this semester and that allowed us to notice a lot about how we were all contributing to the class and we were able to improve based on those reflections. 

Slowing Your Thinking Down

My semester in this course started a lot rockier than I imagined.  I recently switched my major from Business Administration to English, after enrolling into a handful of introductory courses and found my interest.  The one thing that I take pride in as a student is my attendance, and being here to listen, watch, and participate in the course.  One of my biggest setbacks was when I grew very ill and missed multiple class periods in a row, causing me to lag behind with the rest of the class.  I was stressed, tired, and concerned about whether or not I will be able to move forward and progress my learning in the course.  I seeked out my professor and needed to talk, to see what I could do to get out of this situation and steer myself back on the main road.  

One of the biggest things I noticed was the amount of times I would get overwhelmed.  Whether it’s reading, and I’m going too fast, or panicking about course content when I have all the material at my disposal, or not understanding something when I can work harder and find a way to understand things.  I had to slow things down.  An example of this type of thinking can be found in Home by Toni Morrison, where the text states, “how small, how useless was her schooling, she thought, and promised herself she would find time to read about and understand “eugenics” (Morrison, 65).  This quote is perfect for summarizing my understanding of this course, as some of the content was confusing for me at the beginning, but switched my thought process and spent time and care to understand pieces of our course that were tricky for me to understand.

The issue with slowing things down was always a burden of mine, but it wasn’t until this semester that I knew I had to lock in and find those strategies to slow my thought process down and relax.  When I came back to class, I had the thoughts of relaxing and slowing my thinking down, to see how I would fare in the class that day, and I found it rather successful.  I had listened to my peers’ thinking, more than I did discuss and collaborate about my thoughts, as it’s not always about what I have to say; but rather, what can I learn and take away from.  I kept this method of mine consistent and it translated well with my other enrolled courses.  

When reflecting on the course content as a whole, we centered our focus on the corruption in the medical world, as well as racism and injustice.  This can be said for every piece of literature that we’ve read, that a similar trend of corruption could be found in virtually all of the readings that we had encountered this semester.  When working in groups this semester, we found that a theme of legacy was present in most of the passages, notably in Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson where we find small poems and stories that paint out the legacy of Fortune who was a slave, and was able to tell and educate the future about what he went through as a slave, with the hopes to educate the world for slavery to never happen again.  “Fortune was born; he died” (Nelson, 2).  The length and simplicity of this quote, can really speak 1000 words, as this quote summarizes the majority of Nelson’s writing as describes that fortune was born a slave, and his life is tarnished and ruined because of it, almost as if he died.  

The concept of educating the present to change the future from the past can be said from other books we’ve read this year, one that sticks out is Harriet A. Washington’s Medical Aparthaid  where we center our focus on the corrupt medical industry and utilizing black folks for scientific research, while disregarding all repercussions on basic human life.  Dr. W. Montaguene Cobb…vociferously opposed abusive experimentation with blacks, but he defended Sims. ‘To refer to Anarcha and the five vesicovaginal patients whom Sims treated with her, as human guinea pigs would be grossly unfair… one of the great humanitarian as well as scientific landmarks of American surgery” (Washington 68-69).   This highlights what people of different skin color underwent before basic civil rights were even thought about.  This disgusting act has educated our class and those who’ve read Medical Aparthaid, and informed its audience about the brutal history of medical science and racial injustice.  Just scratching the surface on the content we’ve gone over, there was a lot to really think about during this semester and I feel that a large part of my understanding and learning from this semester was formed from the process that I learned during the semester.

Going back to slowing things down, this process ultimately changed my vision of the course as a whole, and relaying back to our course epigraph, of “My job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice” from Dionne Brand I feel that this quote applies with a lot of what we covered in class this semester.  Noticing something through reading, the thoughts of another class member, a theme or comparison from the literature we’ve read, or a strategy like my own, this way of thinking is so vital for a class like this as it helps you learn more about yourself, and helps your peers learn and grow as well.  My peers might know the book from the back of their hand; however, if I notice something through my eyes and my peers perceive something different, this gives us an opportunity to discuss and collaborate with each other to relate and expand on each other’s thoughts.  

A prime example of this can be found throughout our first collaborative essay, as the way we planned our writing was by all of us diving back into our books and pulling out quotes that we found interesting or had a clear cut message that could be significant to the creation of our essay.  Our group united after we all found a plethora of significant quotes and we built off each other’s thoughts to formulate a cohesive and effective essay through the usage of each of our peers’ thoughts and ideas.  

Reflecting off this quote even more, I still think this course epigraph matters despite GLOBE’s insistence of Geneseo students gaining practice through self reflection as I found that putting your thoughts onto paper and talking about how you’ve done in a course, is so vital to one’s self growth and accountability.  It’s so hard to see how you’re performing without what you’ve done to achieve your goals and success.  How you manage your time, how much care and thought you put into class time, and how you were able to benefit your peers’ learning and how they were able to impact yours.  All these thoughts of self reflection intertwine with our epigraph so well, that it makes both subjects equally as important.

The amount of things I’ve learned in this course is an understatement.  I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about racial discrimination, medical science and its negative impacts upon society, and empowering my peers, and consistent thorough reflection  on my growth as a student.  This has molded me into a better student and human being, and the resources I’ve created will translate well into my future moving forward.

Healing through Reading

One of the most important pieces of advice I have received came from my 7th grade ELA teacher who said “if you are going to read, make an attempt to understand it through the lens of what is going on in your own life and only then, will you be immersed in the author’s experience.” And he was right. Understanding literature is more complex than just reading it. It is important to pay attention to the importance of an author’s work during the time they published it and the impact they were hoping to make. This course, Literature, Medicine, and Racism, allowed folks to immerse themselves in the author’s experience by unpacking different events that occurred in different stories and making a connection between current events happening now. The course epigraph, “my job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice” played a significant role in understanding our literature this semester and motivated us to take a critical look at the books we were reading. Everyone’s ideas, understandings, and processings of the texts we read were different. We all came from different academic backgrounds and provided different perspectives on the text we read. But, that’s what was wonderful about the experience. Our job was to notice. It was not only Dr. McCoy’s role or Kya’s. Their role might have been to facilitate our noticings but not to completely make it seen. This allowed us to develop leadership, and autonomy of our own learning and led to incredible peer to peer group discussions about the importance of different topics such as racial injustices, gender equity, self-perception, and most importantly, being able to differentiate when something was done in good or bad faith. But, it is important to note that “noticing” was only the first step. Our work this semester involved unpacking textual evidence, thinking critically about the importance of an author’s writing, and making key connections to society today. 

Continue reading “Healing through Reading”

The Significance of Taking Notice in Our Growth

Throughout the semester, we have explored various texts and readings, as well as analyzed character development and themes. All of these ideas and works of literature have connected us back to the course epigraph in the words of Dionne Brand, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” In order to have been successful, we, as students and as contributing members of society and SUNY Geneseo, needed to (and continue to need to) take notice of not only ourselves, but of our peers and mentors. We can observe this epigraph not only in ourselves and this course, but also in the literature we have studied this semester. The works of Toni Morrison, Percival Everett, and Harriet Washington have all displayed this central theme and epigraph, and I have been able to recognize paralleling traits in characters that I myself can connect to. As students in this course, we not only gained an English 100-level education, but we also learned through Geneseo’s Learning Outcomes for a Baccalaureate Education (GLOBE). This program allowed us to explore difficult yet very significant topics such as racism and the imperfections in the field of medicine. In this course, I was not only able to become a better writer and reader, but was also able to gain different perspectives on these topics, and broaden my understanding on the traumatic history of Black Americans in the United States. In order to gain this understanding and learning experience however, the most important job that we had to conquer is taking notice. Personally, this undertaking has been a pivotal point of growth for me in my academic career. Taking notice of myself and others has allowed me to grow as an individual, not only as a student. 

In this course, we have continuously looked at Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington. In her novel, Washington describes the decades of unfair and inhumane medical research performed on slaves and other Black individuals without their consent.​​ Washington highlights Thomas Jefferson, who performed experiments on his slaves, despite his apparent opposition to slavery. “Jefferson obtained some cowpox vaccine indirectly…. The vaccine had failed to protect the subjects of an earlier trial. Jefferson spent the summer vaccinating two hundred of his family’s and his neighbor’s slaves” (Washington 59). Jefferson utilized hundreds of his own and his relative’s slaves to experiment with a vaccine, knowing the dangers it could entail. It is important to notice the blatant disregard for the lives and feelings of Black individuals at this time. By reading Medical Apartheid, I began to truly understand the traumatic racism that existed and still exists today. Harriet Washington noticed, and helped readers notice the detrimental effects that institutional racism has upon society. At the time of slavery, a medical license was not needed to perform these type of experiments on Black individuals, yet it was illegal to do so on White individuals. Quite literally, anyone with a slave who possessed medical curiosity could peform their own research. This caused many Black Americans to lose their lives, be in a very poor state of health, or even for passed Black individuals to not gain the proper burial or ceremony due to their severed bodies. Through reading this novel, and noticing the evident discrimination on the lives of far too many Black Americans, I truly learned how important it is to take notice of others around me. In a similar way that White Americans must take notice of this evident discrimination of minority groups to result in any change/reform, we, as students, must take notice of our peers and mentors to help each other grow along with ourselves. One of the most beneficial aspects of this course for me was the emphasis on peer and mentor feedback. Through class discussions, collaborative essays, and even small group literature discussions, I fully understood the importance of support and feedback. In class and small group discussions, we talked together, working through literature analysis. I was able to discuss my opinions in a supportive environment, having my voice heard, while also listening to others’ ideas. I had the opportunity to gain a different perspective from each of the different disciplinary studies and academic levels that the students and mentors in this class have, and it was sincerely rewarding. While I was able to receive positive feedback, I was also able to relay feedback of my own to my peers. Additionally, working in groups to create collaborative essays was extremely beneficial. I had the opportunity to bounce ideas off of my peers, which ultimately made me a better writer, and I could see how others worked efficiently which contributed to my growth overall as a student. Noticing ourselves while also concurrently noticing others is essential to our growth in academia and even as individuals in society. 

In addition to working with Medical Apartheid, we also read and analyzed the novel, Zulus by Percival Everett. Everett describes a dystopian society, where the government has almost total control over the people, and citizens are confined to a strict diet of cheese and crackers while working supposedly meaningless jobs. Alice Achitophel lives by these confines, but is aware that there should be something more. She constantly searches for a purpose in life, even when she begins working in the medical field. Alice is constantly defined as a “fat woman,” this is all she is seen as by others, yet there is so much more to her character, and she takes notice of herself as more than what people think. Alice Achitophel, while she is in a society that we do not know to exist, is actually a very relatable character. Personally, I can connect to Alice’s need for purpose and her sense of identity. It can be very difficult when your whole life is defined by one singular trait that people see or experience. Alice took notice of herself, and truly believed she could do more than what people expected of her. I have felt this many times throughout my academic career. Specifically in this class, I learned how important it is to take notice of myself, and the significance that taking notice has on my growth. As students, we are often defined by our grades, and we dread receiving exams and finals due to the weight that our grades have on us. In this class, I had the opportunity to really take notice of myself as a writer, as I did not have to dread receiving a heavily weighted grade. I learned that once a grade or word count is removed, I really am capable of more than I think. In our collaborative essays, our group actually struggled to keep our writing short. We realized that we had a plethora of good ideas and we realized an ability in ourselves that we did not even know we had. In a real world aspect, I understand that we may not always have the freedom like we did in this class, but I have to remember that I am capable of more than I think, and it really is so important to keep notice of myself when I am approached with difficulties. 

The class novel that I believe connects both noticing ourselves and noticing others is Home by Toni Morrison. In this novel, Cee begins to work for Dr. Beauregard, who unbeknownst to Cee, is performing life-altering medical research on her. When her brother, Frank, comes to save her, she is in an almost unrecoverable state of health. Frank then brings Cee to Miss Ethel in hopes of saving her life, and Miss Ethel unfortunately tells Cee, “Your womb can never bear fruit” (Morrison 128). Cee learns that she is not able to have children due to the horribly invasive gynecological surgeries performed on her. Cee was not aware of what was being done to her, and she never gave consent or accepted her medical fate. Dr. Beauregard performed experiments that not only left her body in an almost unrecoverable state, but also made a drastic life decision for her, that she can never bear children of her own. She not only was used for her body non consensually, but she was in such a poor state that she herself could barely survive on her own. In this situation, Cee was forced to notice herself and also notice others concurrently. When she could no longer have children she had to notice that this was her life now. She had to take notice that she could never be a mother and how this drastic change would affect her. This drastic change also forced her to notice the blatant disregard for her life that Dr. Beauregard had. Cee was innocent and protected by her brother Frank for most of her life. Now that she was out on her own, she learned the true dangers of the world. Taking notice of this truth and notice of how Dr. Beauregard broke her trust would allow her to grow. This displays the true importance of noticing yourself and also taking notice of others at the same time. 

The course epigraph, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice,” carried us through this class as well as our novels and readings. There is evidence of each of the characters noticing themselves and noticing others. I have learned and grown through taking notice of myself and others in this course. While I have always put in my best effort in my academics, I have lacked taking notice. Taking notice of myself can be so important, as I have been able to realize the true growth I have made throughout this semester. Sometimes we can be hard on ourselves, especially when we are defined by our grades, and we must notice how hard we are working and to be proud of ourselves and our accomplishments. This semester has allowed me to reflect on my past self and learn from my fallbacks as well as from my accomplishments. 

Works Cited

Everett, Percival. (1990). Zulus. The Permanent Press. 

Morrison, Toni. (2013). Home. Vintage Books

Washington, Harriet. (2010). Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to The Present. Paw Prints.

Self-Reflection Essay: Noticing Morality and an Update on my Goals

            I think the course epigraph, Dionne Brand’s quote, “my job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice,” forms many through lines for the literature we have read this semester and the ideas shared along the way. I believe the most important through line that I have noticed throughout the semester relates to morality; just because certain acts of behavior were justified in the past, does not mean it is okay today. Behavior that is clearly wrong today might not have always been obviously wrong or even thought to be immoral. Morality has shifted over the years. In post-colonial times, until the middle of the 20th century, the humanity of certain individuals, particularly minorities, was often ignored and it was accepted within societal culture to withhold consent and treat these individuals in degrading ways. Not until the latter half of the 20th century did individuals begin to speak up and acknowledging the humanity of all; today “righteous” morals, such as treating individuals with equity and consent, are emphasized is societal expectations because our culture and customs place a higher value on humanity than past lineages have.

            The through line relating to morality, specifically the lack of it, reflecting great ignorance for humanity, can be noticed in Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the present. For instance, Washington reveals how African American individuals were treated inhumanely in the recent past. First, she mentions the postmodern display of their bodies. She states, “Without their consent, stuffed, mummified, or skeletal black bodies have been displayed in doctor’s offices, anatomy laboratories, museums…” (Washington 134). Washington reveals that corpses of African Americans were often displayed, by white individuals, in the public eye. Morality was ignored in this situation, such display was initially justified as appropriate because it was considered to be for educational purposes. White individuals claimed that there was nothing wrong with the situation because the display of Black bodies contributes to learning. However, this act is morally wrong for many reasons. Washington shares that Blacks were subordinated even after colonialism through the creation of books that are in the skins of African Americans. She comments, these “souvenirs that were typically brought from grave robbers: Even in death, African Americans were bought and sold” (Washington 134). At the surface, it is wrong to display bodies and the skin of an individual because it is an act that disturbs the dead. Even stronger proof of immorality is the fact that consent was never given to the individuals who decided to establish such displays. These bodies were robbed from graves, without a care of respect for the diseased individual or their family. Morality in terms of righteousness has most definitely shifted since then because individuals living in today’s society would be mortified to see displays knowing that consent was not obtained; they would see this act as obviously wrong considering the aspect of humanity that was ignored.

            Similarly, the topic of disturbed morality can be noticed in Octavia Butler’s Clay’s Ark. For example, kidnapping and knowingly infecting Blake and his daughters, Keira and Rane was an accepted standard by Eli and his people who initially supported this act as they selfishly needed Blake. When Eli and Ingraham open up Blake’s car door and begin rifling through his things, they find his identification and learn that he is a doctor. Upon this discovery, Eli tells Ingraham that having his daughters with him, “makes our lives easier. All we have to do is take one of them and he’s ours” (Butler 9). Certainly, Eli and Ingraham make it known that their purpose of kidnapping Blake’s entire family is to ensure that they get to keep Blake. Medea admits this ambition later on to Blake. She states, “you’re our first doctor. We’ve wanted one for a long time” (Butler 37). Since Blake is a doctor, and Eli’s people did not already have a doctor on sight, they justified the act of kidnapping and therefore infecting three more people, as a need. Although they did not view their actions as wrong, readers of the text immediately see the absence of morality as Eli and his people never took time to consider how their actions would affect the lives of Blake, Rane and Keira. The narrator shares that Blake “did not intend to live his life as an emaciated carrier of a deadly disease” (Butler 41). The organism that Eli and his people spread to Blake’s family, without consent, imprisoned them to their community, forcing them to leave their previous lives including their family, home, jobs, and education. Although Eli and his people did not think twice about what they were doing, morality today is highly valued and clearly establishes the act of kidnapping as wrong because it is a criminal offense.

            I believe that thinkING about how often individuals falsely justify their actions to ignore the morality of a given situation goes hand in hand with the idea that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time.” I think that the acts we have read about in the literature from this semester, specifically in Medical Apartheid and Clay’s Ark, have always been wrong. Although justification was provided at the time, as society evolves and human beings learn and become more educated, the outlook of actions becomes more clear. Since care for humanity is a major part of our society today, including at Geneseo, treating individuals with respect is prioritized and therefore the wrongfulness of actions in the course literature is very obvious to the students who engage with this reading. Reader’s need to take into consideration the time period of which these inhumane acts happened so they can notice that morality has changed over time and such treatment is not okay. I believe understanding that providing justification for an inhumane act does not make it a righteous act, is critical when learning about historical events and customs because this part of history does not need to be repeated. Since one simple action can deeply affect an individual and generations of people, human beings need to thINK about the potential consequences of their everyday actions before they implement them.

            In my goal setting essay, I emphasized my personal goal to deeply engage with our course material. Throughout the semester, I really worked to achieve this goal by taking detailed notes while reading at home and coming to class with certain ideas or quotes that I wanted to discuss with my classmates. During small group work, I actively contributed and tried to consider my peers thoughts and bounced ideas off of them. Despite times I did not feel like participating in class, I tried to really push myself so I could get the most out of this course. Another goal I set was to be open-minded in terms of drawing immediate conclusions from the literature without unpacking. I definitely think I accomplished this goal this semester. Admittedly, the readings were very challenging and a bit confusing at times; since there was so much to unpack, I found my initial thoughts constantly changing. I never shut out additional thoughts from my peers or ideas found later on in the reading, I used such elements to build a greater analysis overall throughout the course. All in all, I think I achieved the goals I set in September and I feel that I have significantly grown as a writer, reader and most definitely as a collaborator throughout this semester.

Work Cited

Butler, Octavia E.. Clay’s Ark. Warner Books, 1996. Print.

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

The Importance of Noticing

Over the course of this semester, I have referred back to the course epigraph in order to strengthen my own ability to notice both inside and outside of class. By strengthening my ability to notice, I have modified my way of thinking about how the novels we have read for this course connect to the course epigraph. This has allowed me to relate to some of the characters introduced in these texts. The epigraph for this course has also helped me to improve my perception of accountability, a core theme for this course and others. For one of our first essays, I wrote that my goal for this course was to “…take accountability for my contributions to the class and group discussions.” Strengthening my ability to notice has helped me to overcome my hesitancy to voice my ideas and to contribute meaningful responses to group discussions about the novels that we have analyzed. 

Dionne Brand writes, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” This course epigraph has contributed to my understanding of the novels that we have read over the duration of this semester. It has allowed me to make connections between the novels that we have read in order to expand my ways of thinking. Discussing the texts in class has illustrated the different ways that we can each deconstruct Brand’s statement. The epigraph provides a through line for the literature and ideas that we have engaged in this semester. By noticing, or not noticing, the characters in these novels have illustrated the importance of accountability. I believe that this idea is best illustrated in Colson Whitehead’s post-apocalyptic novel, Zone One and Octavia Butler’s alternate American novel, Clay’s Ark. In these novels, Whitehead and Butler depict the importance of a character both noticing and taking accountability for their actions. 

In Colson Whitehead’s post-apocalyptic novel, Zone One, accountability is an important practice depicted early on in the novel. Zone One follows the main character, Mark Spitz, and his journey through the post-apocalyptic world as a sweeper. As a sweeper, Mark Spitz is tasked with eliminating the skels that remain alive and wander throughout the buildings of New York City. Whitehead depicts the idea of accountability early on in the novel when Mark Spitz refers to himself as an “Angel of Death” (Whitehead, 19). By calling himself an “Angel of Death,” Mark Spitz holds himself accountable for helping to rid the remaining people of the horrible fate that they suffered in becoming a skel. Mark Spitz often personalizes the skels by comparing the characteristics to those of someone he knew in the pre-apocalyptic world. This provides the reader with insight into Mark Spitz’s thoughts about how he views himself and the skels before he ultimately kills them. 

In Octavia Butler’s alternate American novel, Clay’s Ark, the practice of accountability is an important aspect throughout the entirety of the novel as well. A character that depicts this practice frequently in the novel is Eli. Eli was a geologist on the starship, Clay’s Ark, when he and fourteen other crew members were infected with a diseased organism from the second planet. This organism that infected the crew members “…changed, adapted and chemically encouraged its host (a human body) to adapt” (Butler, 50). Eli takes accountability for stopping the spread of the disease to human civilization by establishing his own community. However, he still worries about causing death to innocent people by spreading the disease, stating: “Sooner or later, somehow, it will happen. And ultimately, I’ll be responsible” (Butler, 205). This allows the reader to be more understanding about his reluctance to let the Maslin family escape their captivity. 

In both Zone One and Clay’s Ark, Whitehead and Butler observe the importance of accountability for the sake of humanity’s survival. They further this practice by allowing the characters to ameliorate their ability to notice. This is illustrated in Zone One, when Mark Spitz is asked to identify the skels that he eliminated in the Human Resources office. Mark Spitz passes up this task because it forces him to glimpse into the life they once had prior to being infected.  His actions of eliminating the skels are illustrated to be taken in good faith, showing Mark Spitz’s ability to notice the life that once existed before the disease took over. The ability to notice is also illustrated in Clay’s Ark, when Eli decides that it is best to create a community for the family that he created with Meda. Eli does this to protect those infected with the organism and, more importantly, to protect others from becoming infected. By creating his own isolated community, Eli demonstrates that he notices the harm that he can place on mankind by spreading the organism and in good faith, tries to prevent that from happening.  

This past year has challenged students’ abilities to reflect upon changes that have occurred in learning and that have impacted their outlook over time. In relation to the course epigraph, this time of adjustment has compelled students to spend more time noticing. Personally, I have spent more time this semester focusing on improving my ability to voice my thoughts during group or class discussions. This has allowed me to notice that, oftentimes, my peers have similar opinions about the texts that we have been reading. This has encouraged me to continue contributing to group discussions in this course as well as my other courses. The ability to notice matters in regards to learning and forming an outlook because it challenges a person to improve their way of thinking in order to refine their future. 

When discussing Zone One and Clay’s Ark in regards to both noticing and taking accountability, I realized that I have altered my own perception of these two practices since the first essay that we produced for this course. In the goal setting essay, I was determined to “…take accountability for my contributions to the class and group discussions.” As this course progressed, I began connecting more to the characters in these two novels and how they illustrated the importance of accountability. I was more eager to participate in class discussions after paying more attention to how our current reading connected to a past reading. Noticing details like this made it easier to contribute a more meaningful response and demonstrate my improvement from the beginning of the semester. I believe that this has contributed to my ability to reflect upon the changes in learning that have occurred this semester as well as my own outlook. The year began with many new challenges and adjustments but I have practiced converting these uncertainties into learning experiences that have helped shape me into the student I have become this semester.

Why We Notice that We Can Notice

A common thread throughout this course is drawing the current content of focus back to the past content. On the very first day of class, we focused on the epigraph which reads, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” (Dionne Brand). We were told that one purpose of this class was to read the literature given to us and see what it could mean in connection to this epigraph. The very first individual writing assignment for this class was analyzing this quote Within the essay asking ourselves are we focused on our ability to notice, the writers, or maybe the character’s ability? When you look outside of this question and think about the course there is an even broader question, did this epigraph feel relevant throughout the entirety of the course? Using the articles, novels, and other pieces of writing from the course these questions are easily answered. From the textual evidence of Medical Apartheid by Harriet A.Washington, Home by Toni Morrison, and Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson, I concluded that the epigraph is consistently relevant in all of these pieces and can be used to focus on our ability to notice while reading. Since I’ve established that our own ability to notice is a focus within the course how does this connect to GLOBE’s(Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education) requirement that as Geneseo students we need to be practicing the ability to reflect on how we learn over time and what these differences we see are? We can see a connection from this essay, it is asking us to look at the interpretation of the epigraph from the beginning of the semester and compare it to our opinions formed by the end of the semester. 

The first literary piece read within the course was Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington. This medical journal is the most factual writing we read throughout the semester. Washington takes her readers through the gruesome history of the medical world in relation to the mistreatment of Black individuals. Although this was the first work we looked at, we did not treat it like the rest of the novels we came to read. Medical Apartheid was not read in order of chapters, but in the order of which chapters connected to the other literature, we were reading at the time. This was the first time I had been in a class that approached a book in such a way. The effect that this had was interesting. Not only did it make the medical journal more understandable but it also made it feel more relevant. A quote that I found myself thinking a lot about is, “Dr. W. Montague Cobb…vociferously opposed abusive experimentation with blacks, but he defended Sims. ‘To refer to Anarcha and the five vesicovaginal patients whom Sims treated with her, as human guinea pigs would be grossly unfair… one of the great humanitarian as well as scientific landmarks of American surgery”(Washington 68-69). When I read this I think about the commonly used phrase, there is no black and white when it comes to good and bad, only gray. Although there is no denying that the lack of consensual experimentation happening was an act of cruelty, it becomes a tricky conversation when the medical advancements that come from it are monumental for the medical community. In this quote, Dr. W. Montague is not supporting the continuation of these experiments. However, he is acknowledging that medical advancements made from them should be appreciated and not only that the people who made them should be appreciated as well. This leads me to think about the epigraph, this literary work as I stated earlier, is a factual and historically accurate piece but the thinking it provokes goes beyond that. The thoughts I had led me to notice that there is no perfect way to look at history and no perfect way to villainize the people within it. The horrors found in medical history cannot be ignored but the advancements they made can also not be ignored. A simple way to interpret this book would be to see the names and the dates and memorize them as fact and move on. The epigraph pushed upon us encourages deeper thinking. It causes a much more important and difficult inner dialogue. Forcing us to deal with the possibility that there is no real answer on how to deal with the racist tragedies of the past. 

The novel Home by Toni Morrison also deals with manipulative behavior in medical experimentation. This is why the quote used above from Medical Apartheid was read during the same time as Home was. Showing that the importance of connecting literature to outside works was emphasized consistently throughout the course. We were encouraged to notice that the works, although very different from each other, could be tied to one another.  By connecting each novel to the other it paints a more detailed picture for me as a reader. The pain that we see the characters within Home experience is something many Black individuals in the real world had to experience in a similar or in a worse way. The character Cee in Morrison’s novel Home, finds herself in a situation where she falls victim to the horrendous acts of the medical community. A doctor named Dr. Beauregard “hires” her to perform gynecological experiments on her body. While she still worked for the doctor she has sickening thoughts such as,  “How pleasant she felt upon awakening after Dr. Beau had stuck her with a needle to put her to sleep; how passionate he was about the value of the examinations; how she believed the blood and pain that followed was a menstrual problem- nothing made them change their minds about the medical industry”(Morrison, 121-122). With the information from Medical Apartheid and the events, we see Cee experience I was able to see the gravity of danger the Black community was in when surrounded by the medical community. The manipulation that took place to make sure these non-consensual experiments took place is clear. The only reason Cee agrees to “work”, although I’m not sure what Cee is subjected to can be considered a job, is because she was vulnerable. She wanted reassurance and love she did not get from her stepmother or her husband. Sensing this vulnerability Dr. Beauregard took advantage of it. Though not all experiments that took place came to be in this exact way there are similarities in most. To elaborate, some experimentation would take place because a Black patient was not aware of proper protocol. Another reason could have been a lack of options presented when needing to seek health treatment. These situations may not be identical, but they all have the common thread that systematic racism was present and that power was abused by the race in control. Looking at the novels Medical Apartheid and Home individually would allow anyone to gain some knowledge about the racist past of medical advancement. However, since our course revolves around noticing, and in my opinion noticing connections between literature specifically, we are able to take the two novels and gain a deeper and more detailed understanding of this past. I am able to know not only what took place but how it took place. I was able to see how power was abused to dehumanize these Black individuals. 

A unique piece of literature we looked at this semester was Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson. This was the first requiem that I had ever come across in an English class. It was actually the first time I had come across the term at all. Merriam-Webster defines it in a number of ways, “a mass for the dead: a solemn chant for the repose of the dead: a musical composition in honor of the dead”(Merriam-Webster). Essentially it is a type of poem-like song made to honor someone who has passed. Nelson wrote Fortune’s Bones after a skeleton was found in Connecticut. After doing research about the found remains it was discovered to be the bones of a slave named Fortune, owned by the local doctor. Nelson wrote this to honor Fortune and the lack of identity he was given in life and in death. A powerful piece within the requiem reads, “Fortune’s legacy was his inheritance: the hopeless hope of a people valued for their labor, not for their ability to watch and dream as vee of geese define fall evening skies.  Was Fortune bitter?  Was he good or bad?  Did he laugh sometimes, throw back his head and laugh?  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” (Nelson, 13). As I read these words for the first time the true gravity of the situation came into picture, this was a man who was reduced to nothing but a piece of property. A man who gave his body to the medical achievements of a man who disregarded his bones with no true appreciation and honor. Fortune lived in a time of slavery, Cee and many stories within Medical Apartheid take place years after slavery was abolished. The combination of these works of writing has once again painted me a bigger picture. The history of medical mistreatment towards Black individuals goes back centuries. It also does not end with slavery, the continuation of experimentation is as brutal if not more brutal. The lack of identity is something that also continues long after slavery. The people who gave their bodies unwillingly for medicine advancing are rarely named or thanked. Combining these three works I am able to notice how many identities we do not know and how many people go unthanked. 

A word I use frequently throughout my essay is notice. Of course, the word is significant since the word is in the epigraph, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.” (Dionne Brand). To clarify the points I have made, I feel I need to define what I mean when I am using the word notice. How I define notice is paying attention. When I make connections between all these writings I am paying attention to the way they are similar, the way they can build upon each other, or even how they contradict each other. The three works I mentioned throughout, Medical Apartheid by Harriet A.Washington, Home by Toni Morrison, and Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson, all connected to me because I paid attention while reading each piece. If I were to ignore the epigraph and read each novel as its own without referencing the others I would not have gained any of the knowledge I mentioned above. The importance of noticing things within the text individually was so important to fully utilize this course. It was the only way to get a well-rounded understanding of the content. As a student answering GLOBE’s question of how has my learning changed? I would say I thought the importance of noticing was something that needed to be done as a class. I now think the importance of noticing things as an individual is the main goal of this class, this way the class can compare thoughts and gain more interpretations overall. 


Everett, P. L. (1990). Zulus. The Permanent Press.

A Geneseo Education for a connected world. SUNY Geneseo. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2021, from

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Requiem definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from

Morrison, T. (2013). Home. Vintage Books.

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

Paw Prints. (2010). Medical apartheid the dark history of medical experimentation on Black Americans from colonial times to the present

“Noticing” vs. “THINKing”

Maya Nunez 

December 10, 2021

As I sit here and write my final- self-reflection essay, I wonder whether or not the course epigraph- “My job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice,” relates to the literature we’ve read and the ideas we’ve formed throughout the entire semester. I am sure I can sit here and make some sort of connection as to how the course epigraph might relate to what we’ve done thus far but, if I’m being honest, I don’t think this quote accurately reflects the work I’ve done in this class. When I think about the course epigraph, I think about my own, personal ability to “notice” as well as the character’s ability to notice throughout the readings. Although I’ve been encouraged by Beth and Kya to “notice” different themes and course concepts throughout the course, I’ve also been encouraged to “THINK”. The term “notice” is a verb that can be defined as “becoming aware of.” Although I have “become aware” of many things in this class, I did much more than just “become aware”. Beth and Kya also encouraged me to THINK- to form deeper connections through group/class discussions to be able to come up with different themes, ideas, and concepts. For me, THINKing has played a larger part in what we’ve been able to achieve in this course. To say I’ve only been able to “notice” takes away from all the hard work I’ve done in the class to go beyond noticing and to make sense of what it is I’ve learned throughout the semester. 

Thinking back to the beginning of the semester when we had just begun reading Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington, many of us had not known about the dark and brutal history of medical experimentation of Black Americans. It had come as a shock for many of us as to what it was we were reading. Being a sociomedical science major, I had learned quite a bit about the medicalization and the experimentation of black bodies in the United States but still, after reading a good part of this book, I’d learned things I’d never known before such as the clinical trials run by Dr. T. Stillman during the 1830s. During this time, Dr. T. Stilllman ran “serial advertisements in the Charleston Mercury for his infirmary, in which he principally treated skin disease.” (103) He requested “50 negros”, specifically those sick and/or considered incurable (103). Dr. T. Stillman tested different techniques and medications on these “debilitated and chronically unhealthy blacks” without their consent and then marketed his work for the world to use (103). When I read this in the class, I was in complete shock (as were other students). I was noticing a moment in history that I never once knew existed. Instead of just noticing what it was I was learning about, I was encouraged to THINK and make connections between the different assigned readings. During this time we were also reading Fortune’s Bones by Marilyn Nelson and Home by Toni Morrison. For our first collaborative essay, we were asked to focus on the idea of identity and understand how the author’s use of naming, imagination, and ease impact the idea of identity. By THINKing, my group and I were able to connect the different novels together by arguing that the authors use tactics of naming, ease, and imagination to help bring back the identity to those who’ve lived without one. THINKing about Medical Apartheid, Washington is able to bring back the identity of those that were experimented on by writing about and exposing the history of medical experimentation in America. She tells the stories that have been hidden for so long in American history and by telling these stories, by naming these people (who’ve fallen victim to experimentation), she is giving them back their identity. My group and I would not have been able to come to this conclusion has we just “noticed” what it was we were reading. By THINKing about how the texts in relation to one another we were able to make deeper connections by connecting academic study to real-world problems and issues. 

I want to note that although I don’t agree that the course epigraph aligns well with what we’ve done thus far this semester, I do think that noticing has played an important role in this class, for without noticing, I would not be able to THINK and form meaningful connections. I understand that being able to “notice” is an important part of this class especially when it comes to understanding characters’ actions or even authors’ actions for that matter but, what is most important for me is what is done after we notice. How can I ask meaningful questions and form deeper connections between novels and even personal- life experiences if I am not THINKing? Noticing is definitely the first step in being able to THINK and form meaningful connections between and within readings. A crucial part of the class had been being able to ask “meaningful questions… synthesizing multiple bodies of knowledge to address real-world problems and issues.” I’ve been able to do this by THINKing about the readings we’ve been assigned and coming up with concepts and themes that align well with the course learning outcomes. For the last collaborative essay, my group and I were asked to unpack how the novels we read (Clay’s Ark, Zulus, and Zone One)  and the section from “From Here to Equality: Reparation for Black Americans in the Twenty-first Century,” attend to the forces that reduce some human beings to one aspect of their humanity for the benefit of others. This prompt required that we not only “notice” the parts in the novels (and the article) where characters and/or people are being reduced to one feature, one characteristic, but this prompt also required that we THINK about how these actions (of reduction) impact humanity as a whole. By THINKing, my group and I were able to conclude that when people are reduced to one feature, this can create a series of issues. THINKing about the article on reparations for Black Americans, when we condense the history of the Black struggle into one aspect where there is only one end solution, we are not correctly acknowledging or addressing the issue of racism in American history. Tying this to the novel Zulus, when Alice discovers she’s able to reproduce, she is used by those closest to her. Instead of being seen as an equal member of society, she is reduced to a single identity. Similar to how Alice’s identity is being reduced to one aspect, so are the struggles of Black Americans in our nation’s history. Coming to this conclusion required my group and I to THINK so that we could come up with the comparison in our essay.

GLOBE’s insistence that Geneseo students should gain practice and the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time” can be connected to both the course epigraph on noticing and also the idea of THINKing. According to GLOBE, Geneseo 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 like, by THINKing about what I’ve read and learned in class, I’ve been able to become a “specialist” in this class. I’ve been able to develop habits of critical inquiry and civic participation. I’ve been able to ask questions through class discussions and get a better idea of class concepts. I’ve been able to provide my own insight on the different assigned readings and explain my ideas to my peers around me. I’ve been able to not only reflect on my own learning but the learning of my peers. Considering this is a “joint class,” I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside many different students with many different majors so I’ve been introduced to their different learning styles and their different ideas and opinions on the work we’ve done in class. I’ve been able to explore diverse human experiences, cultures, and viewpoints both from the readings and from working alongside different students in the class. From the readings, I was able to learn a little more about race in America and I was able to form connections between race and the different literary pieces we read in class. From the class, I was able to engage with students from different backgrounds with different majors to come up with literary ideas and concepts for our classwork. Being able to THINK about course readings, students’ ideas, key concepts/ themes, etc… has helped shape my experience in this class. THINKing has played a larger role for me in this class than noticing.