Self-Reflective Essay: Good Faith Contributions

Ever since I started school, I have been encouraged to “participate in class.” To my teachers and parents, and as a result, to me, this meant speaking up in class and raising my hand to make a point or answer a question. Throughout middle school, high school, and even now, in college, final grades often include a participation aspect, where students are specifically graded on how many times we raise our hands in class to answer any given question. I’ve always strived for academic success, and a part of that, for me, has always been the fact that I’m comfortable speaking up in class, and making my opinions heard, which, in turn, shows off the fact that I did the reading, or listened to the lecture. During my first check-in for course accountability, I referenced my habit of “compulsive hand-raising” stating that it was something I “am actively working on.” Dr. McCoy replied that perhaps I might consider where that need to raise my hand stemmed from, and I hypothesized that it comes from structure and upbringing. My parents are both teachers, and have taught my brother, sister and I to speak up in class, to make the most of what we’re learning by participating. So, I think this definition of participation has always been ingrained in my academic journey, the need to hand-raise and offer responses to the instructor when prompted.

The longevity of this perception has meant, in the past, that my participation, while made in good faith, has not always been the most constructive to a conversation. Sometimes I have found myself in class settings where I am the student in the class who is quickest to raise my hand and usually that means I have been one to directly respond to material, without accounting for other students’ thoughts or processes. Even though in other class contexts (i.e. peer revision, doing my part in group work) I have always demonstrated care for my peers’ growth, in the context of class discussion, I have long been in the habit of jumping into conversations and thereby inadvertently taking an opportunity for contribution from others, and depriving myself of an opportunity for growth and conversation.

Something this class has taught me is that participation doesn’t always look the same. Raising my hand just to raise my hand and get a point maybe isn’t the best way to make the most out of a class. Throughout my time in this class, I have noticed my peers and myself participating by listening actively and attentively, by acknowledging and responding with care to the work of others, by actually doing the readings and coming to class with a real intent to learn more based on what we’ve prepared and participated in outside of class. I think it’s wonderful because while different people have different styles and comfort zones with participation, this course has given each of us the opportunity to notice what we are accustomed to and what we’re capable of, and has allowed me to really practice many different forms of participation.

The course epigraph, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice,” has applied to just about every integral course concept we’ve explored, but it has especially resonated with me for contribution. I have put a real effort into taking note of where my input is needed or appreciated, and when I should take a moment to really listen and absorb. In They Say, I Say, Graff and Birkenstein affirm how important it is “that we listen carefully to others, including those who disagree with us, and then engage with them thoughtfully and respectfully” (Graff and Birkenstein 14) Sometimes, after listening, I find I may have something valuable to add to the conversation, and other times, I’ve found that there is no need to speak just to speak, and that the class and I would gain more from sitting with whatever was just said or hearing someone else out. I’ve actively worked toward noticing these differences in ways I never have before. I do so in good faith, and I may not always be right in my analysis of a situation, but I’m learning and growing, and doing my best to support my peers in doing the same.

Actions that fall under good faith and bad faith categories are not always the same for all people, or people at different times in their lives. I would say that before taking this course, I had not thoughtfully considered where my “compulsive hand-raising” came from or what effect it had. I do believe that at that time, I was participating and contributing in good faith. However, now that I have done that work, and learned more, if I continued to push myself to the front line in class settings like I used to, I believe this would be in bad faith. As a person’s understanding, care and intentions evolve, so do their examples of acting in good faith. This is something that we’ve seen in the literature we’ve read throughout the semester as well. In Morrison’s Home, her protagonist, Frank, wants to participate in Cee’s recovery in good faith. He believes that he is her protector, and feels guilty for not seeing the abuse she went through. He wants to make it up to her, but Ethel banishes him and his “evil mindset” (119). Around this point in the novel, Frank notices that “While his devotion shielded her, it did not strengthen her” (129) and adjusts his participation in her healing. In his case, the best way he could contribute to her recovery is to stand back for a little while and let her gain her confidence and strength surrounded by the right people for the job until she was ready to be around him again. Frank has a complicated story, but this particular choice was made in true good faith. He set his guilt and defensiveness aside, and he did the right thing for Cee in the moment, even though it may not have given him the peace of mind that HE craved so strongly.  True contribution to a cause isn’t always visible, and sometimes the most visible participation isn’t always the best kind for the moment.

In this class, we have also studied many examples of bad faith participation of all kinds. By my understanding of the definition, participating in a cause or activity in bad faith would involve a person participating in an activity that they know to be harmful, but choose to ignore the harm, because they believe the benefits they receive outweigh the harm done to others. In this class, we have also studied many examples of bad faith participation of all kinds. By my understanding of the definition, participating in a cause or activity in bad faith would involve a person participating in an activity that is harmful, and that they know to be harmful, but choose to ignore the harm, because they believe the benefits they receive outweigh the harm done to others. There are multiple examples of this in every book we’ve read this semester, including: the rebel camp holding Alice hostage in Zulus, Dr. Beau’s abuse of Cee in Home, the objectification of Fortune’s body in Fortune’s Bones, P.T. Barnum’s mistreatment of Black people within his circus in Medical Apartheid, and many, many more.

Bad faith contribution is also possible within a course setting. For example, coming to class without having done the readings and instead of disclosing that you didn’t come prepared, choosing to make things up for points would be a bad faith move in a classroom. Another obvious example would be cheating on a test just because you know you can get away with it, or plagiarizing someone else’s work. This type of action is wrong, and we all know it is wrong, but it is something that is done often in academic settings for a whole range of reasons, including the fact that most school settings push values of academic success harder than they push academic integrity. It causes harm to others, and degrades the actor’s integrity, and yet it is still done because it serves the actor, and the actor can choose to ignore the negative effects it could have on their peers, professor and academic journey. 

This is the first class I have ever taken where acting in good faith is emphasized  more than getting good grades. Because this class has a relatively light workload, it gives students the space they need to learn how to act in good faith, without falling behind and stressing about being judged or graded for it. I think this class allows a certain kind of reset that could only be possible within a self-graded class. Because we are responsible for our own work within this class, and because the course focuses so strongly on care for growth, accountability and care, I’ve found that deep self-reflection is impossible to avoid. Each time we fill out a care assessment or even just discuss whether a character in one of our texts is acting in good faith, we examine ourselves – noticing what parts we’re proud of, and what parts we know we could do better. Geneseo’s GLOBE learning outcomes state the importance of students “reflect[ing] upon changes in learning and outlook over time” which is exactly what we’ve all worked so hard on in this course. I re-read all of my past care assessments and collaborations, as well as the feedback on them, at least four times throughout the semester. These progress checks have allowed me to reflect in a way that allows me to remember my past contributions accurately, so that I’m able to grow from them intentionally. 

The personal nature of this course has guided me to notice myself and my contribution to many different aspects of my life and community outside of this course. In planning this year’s Sigma Tau Delta Lecture Series, my team and I developed a structure that specifically amplifies the voices of Black authors and creators. I’ve sent emails in response to racially insensitive (although in good faith) messages and graphics posted within the Geneseo sphere. I’ve brought this class and examples from it into my other English classes, and even into my Geology class. GLOBE’s learning outcomes state that “Integrative learning fosters the ability to connect and combine knowledge and skills acquired through the curriculum and co-curriculum to new, complex situations within and beyond the college,” and that is something I’ve genuinely experienced in this course. I’ve done some reading and held conversations with family, who, in good faith, are angry that there are so many people in America who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, which took my paternal grandfather (directly) from us this year and my maternal grandfather (indirectly) from us last year. We’ve talked about why it might be that there is fear and distrust in certain communities surrounding medicine, and I’ve shared with them some of the examples of medical bad faith that we’ve learned about. I’ve taken this course home with me throughout the semester, and I know I’ll continue to take it with me to graduation and beyond, because I’ve grown so much here, that this course has become a part of me.

Works Cited

Everett, Percival. Zulus. Permanent Pr. Pub Co., 1990.

“A Geneseo Education for a Connected World.” SUNY Geneseo, SUNY Geneseo,

Graff, Gerald, and Kathy Birkenstein. They Say I Say. Gildan Media, 2006.

Morrison, Toni. Home. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Nelson, Marilyn. Fortune’s Bones. Penguin Random House, 2004.

Washington, Harriet. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experiementation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. Penguin Random House, 2007.

The Ramifications of Character Reduction and Stereotyping

By Georgia VanDerwater, Noah Taylor, Ryan Silverstein, Riley Dilger, Marissa Volk, Jose Romero, Kelly Edmond

In their book From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-first Century, William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen introduce common arguments against reparations being paid out to Black Americans by the United States government and then contextualize and refute them. One contributing factor to the authors’ call for reparations is white America’s tendency to diminish Black Americans to a single stereotype, quality or condition. They mention the impact stereotypes have, saying “In order for reparations to be adopted, white America must come to terms with its false beliefs about ‘Black Behavior’ and with the sanitized version of the nation’s history” (Darity & Mullen 8). This text reveals the intentional or unintentional reduction of Black Americans to single traits and stereotypes as a common excuse for opposition to reparations, and racism in America as a whole. This limitation to a single trait not only appears in this text, but in other course texts such as Zulus, Clay’s Ark, and Zone One. 

In his novel Zulus, Percival Everrett continuously identifies his protagonist, Alice Achitophel, as being overweight, calling her “fat” (7), “massive” (9) and “enormous” (10) all in the first chapter. Alice and those around her continue to comment on her size and conventionally unattractive appearance, until it has mutated into the main core of her identity. It is this conception that prevents Alice from being sterilized, as she is believed too ugly and overweight to be pursued sexually. In Octavia Butler’s novel Clay’s Ark, the lives of the main characters are constantly boiled down to singular characteristics throughout the book in order to make their unjust treatment seem more fair by their kidnappers. Blake, one of these main characters, tries to avoid talking to Meda, one of the people who kidnapped his family. In response to this, Meda says “No, we’ll talk now. You’re our first doctor. We’ve wanted one for a long time” (Butler 39). By making the excuse that their group needed a doctor, Meda attempts to convince herself that her kidnapping was justified rather than acknowledge the family that she’s taken hostage. She does not see him as an individual, but a solution to her problem. In Colson Whitehead’s post-apocalyptic novel, Zone One, the main character Mark Spitz and the rest of his team are tasked with eliminating “skels,” the living dead remaining from a virus that wiped out New York civilization. By reducing the “skels” to a single aspect, such as haircut or job, the sweepers are able to kill them without feeling as guilty. Mark Spitz recalls a day when he stumbled upon “some brain-wiped wretch standing at the fry station of the big hamburger chain and had to shoot him on general principles. Out of the abundance of a life, to choose fry duty” (Whitehead 61). Reducing the skel to his previous occupation as “fry duty” made it easier for Mark Spitz to separate the skel from the rest of humanity. 

As these books demonstrate, narrowing people down to a single quality is a tactic often used when discriminating against another person or group. In regards to this, Darity and Mullen illustrate the idea that the only solution to this sort of discrimination is for people to be informed and to endeavor to understand one another comprehensively. If white Americans subscribe to the stereotypes they have created about Black individuals, they will never even begin the process of healing the wounds created by slavery and Jim Crow. As pointed out in the section Criticisms and Responses, Frederick Douglass once said that slavery can never truly be made up for. However, by acknowledging and atoning the injustices inflicted on Black Americans through slavery and racism with reparations, Americans would be able to start working towards mending the wrongs and creating understanding of one another that is free of stereotypes. 

Forgetting the Medical Practice of Good Faith (revised)

The story of Fortune’s Bones, written by Marilyn Nelson, begins with a man named Fortune, who was enslaved by an orthopedic surgeon known as Dr. Preserved Porter. Upon Fortune’s death, his skeleton was used for anatomical study by Dr. Porter and subsequent generations. The disturbing examination of his body is believed to have contributed to the progression of medical science. Not only was Fortune taken advantage of, his wife (Dinah) was forced to clean the room where Fortune’s skeleton hung. Fortune’s skeleton was eventually donated to a museum by a descendant of Porter. Both Fortune’s real name and story were lost as the name “Larry” had been engraved on Fortune’s skull. Giving Fortune an imaginary name made it easier to accept the magnitude of suffering that he went through. Nelson also mentions that Fortune was an image of herself, enabling her to connect and empathize with the pain that Fortune had to endure. 

The practice of studying medicine has historically sought to minimize, and sometimes even justify the consequent harm brought to individuals who were promised protection. Medical professionals reimagine themselves and their subjects as small contributors to an inevitable and beneficent system, medicine and science as a whole, in order to ease the conflict of bringing harm to patients. One notable example in Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid details the infamous Dr. Sims who built his reputation and his practice from the non consensual experimentation on enslaved Black people. One such experimentation was the 40-minute, unanesthetized surgery of one enslaved man’s lower jaw noting that his experiment “proved its practicality… whether the patient [was] willing or not” (Washington 102-103). Editors of the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journalism were “pleased to record this highly creditable achievement of a Southern Surgeon.”(Washington 103).To complete this reimagining, professionals often forfeit their own agency, as well as that of the patient, to a more abstract demand for knowledge. Though the identity of the medical professional is maintained, the identity of the patient is often obscured, or destroyed to make this reimagining easier. In context, this means that while professionals will be happy to take credit for medical discoveries, the individuals who sacrificed their autonomy in a very visceral way will be carelessly or intentionally forgotten for sake of ease.

Dr. Porter did not see Fortune’s body as the end of a human life; he saw it as an opportunity. When Fortune died, Dr. Porter dissected him. He took Fortune’s body, which he had forced to endure strenuous labor and continued struggle, and he cut it open because he wanted to. Nelson writes from Dr. Porter’s point of view in Fortune’s Bones, as he describes the act of cutting Fortune open, saying his body “falls open like a bridal gossamer” (19). The intimate metaphor is extended, as Dr. Porter begins to dissect Fortune’s body, saying “I enter Fortune, and he enters me” (22). This image connotes an air of equality, mutuality and consent. However, in reality, Dr. Porter was using Fortune’s body as a prop, slicing him into pieces, ripping his organs out of his body, leaving his bones to hang in the room Fortune’s own wife cleans. So why would Nelson’s Dr. Porter use language that implies he and Fortune were equals in this endeavor? He does so for the same reason he constantly repeats the phrase “and I am humbled by my ignorance, humbled by my ignorance” (22): to convince himself that he is not solely responsible for his brutal actions against Fortune’s body in death. If Dr. Porter can convince himself Fortune’s dead body is a willing participant in his studies, if he can convince himself that he is too ignorant to see the cruelty in what he is doing, if he can convince himself that he is merely acting in the good name of science, then he does not need to accept the gravity of what he is doing. Porter goes so far as to imagine Fortune as the agent of the dissection, not himself, stating “Here with begins my dissection of the former body of my former slave, which served him who served me throughout his life, and now serves the advance of science” (17).

The idea of autonomy can also be applied to science. Choosing whether or not to accept their own autonomy has been a common theme in our readings about medical professionals. Doctors willingly take credit for their contributions to the growth of the medical field but deny any responsibility for inflicting harm on Black people at their expense. Dr. Sims from Harriet Washington’s historical book, Medical Apartheid and Dr. Porter from Marilyn Nelson’s Fortune’s Bones, both strived for success in their work without realizing the reality and ethicality of their work on black people. Washington describes the several horrific experiments and procedures performed by Dr. James Marion Sims “father of modern gynecology,” on a group of enslaved women. Doctors had to hold back these women while Dr. Sims made incisions, without providing anesthesia to numb the pain (Washington 65). 

The story of Joice Heth, as depicted in Washington’s Medical Apartheid, is another example of the pain inflicted on a Black person at the hands of a powerful white man. P.T. Barnum, a famous American circus holder, had bought the possession of an enslaved woman named Joice Heth. After her death in 1836, Barnum ordered a public dissection to be performed to determine the cause of death and sold tickets for the public to view. Shockingly, 500 spectators showed up to this gruesome event as a form of entertainment and ensured that Barnum’s fame would rise (Washington 86-94). At the expense of Heth, P.T. Barnum used her to benefit himself and dehumanized her as an easier way to justify his cruel intentions. He made excuses to himself and to Heth that this torture would be worth it because Heth herself would become rich and famous. Unsurprisingly, Barnum was the one who reaped the benefits of his own cruelty, and Heth died penniless and stripped of her dignity and autonomy. Similar to Joice Heth, Fortune was also dehumanized as it was easier to refer to him as “Larry.” By assigning Fortune a generic name, it removes any personal or emotional connection to the body and almost takes away from the consequences of the procedures implemented by Dr. Porter. Both examples show that it was easier for the white person to take advantage of the enslaved Black person through their delusional imaginations to justify their horrible actions.

In their stories, Nelson and Morrison both discuss eugenics to showcase how doctors can manipulate their patients. In Fortune’s Bones, Nelson explains how Fortune’s body is used as a tool. Dr. Porter, a renowned surgeon, undergoes several procedures where he experiments on Fortune’s body for any scientific evidence about his life. However, diving deeper into this scene, we are able to see that no matter how much examination is done, it is Fortune’s voice and spirit that can not be owned. In this particular scene, Nelson writes, “I am not my body, I am not my bones” (27). Here, we clearly see that Fortune is stating that he is not his body. The use of this repetition is important as it highlights Fortune’s identity. Although Fortune’s body is physically there, he is mentally gone. Similarly, in her story, “Home” author Toni Morrison discusses another doctor named Dr. Beauregard, who performed sexual experiments on Cee’s body and left her traumatized. Morrison writes, “And Cee remembered—how pleasant she felt upon awakening after Dr.Beau had stuck her with a needle to put her to sleep” (Morrison, 121). Although Cee did not feel anything during the experiment process she felt like a part of her was gone. The manipulation that Dr.Beau did on Cee’s body left her empty. We see how disturbing one’s physical body can mentally affect them. Connecting this back to the thesis, individuals who sacrifice their bodies for surgeons are capable of being hurt near the end because they end up losing the most important thing to them, their identity.

Georgia, Jacob, Dineen, Nossoh, Phil, Rachel

Goal-Setting Essay: Judge Less


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

“Judge less; think more.”—Beth McCoy

               My job is to notice. Every time I return to the course syllabus and read this epigraph, I am reminded of my role as a student, teacher and human. To me, it means that my sole responsibility is to notice, and to be okay with other people noticing too. My most important responsibility is not to assume, not to debate, not to immediately react, and certainly not to judge. My job is to notice. Eventually, and hopefully, the effect of my noticing will become understanding that grows steadily and gracefully.

               In a course setting, this means reading. It means noticing themes within material, connections between course texts, historical contexts, perspectives of authors, due dates, errors in my writing. It means noticing my own time management habits, my own participation, my part in collaborations and my care for my own growth in the course. It means noticing my professor, Beth McCoy, and my TA, Kya Primm: noticing what they choose to emphasize in class, noticing their expectations and their responses to the material, the questions they ask. It means noticing what is going on with my peers: noticing their perspectives, their growth, their understanding of and reactions to course material. It also means noticing what’s going on in my life outside of class, in my community, my family, my own head. Most importantly, it means noticing all of this without judgement.

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be Astonished.

Tell about it.

-Mary Oliver

This poem is not a part of our course material, so I won’t dwell on it, but I have thought about it often throughout the first few weeks of this course. It adds on two subsequent parts of the action of “noticing.” One, is allowing yourself to feel how you feel in response. There is a fine line between feeling and judging, and noticing comes in again, there. Many times in this class, I have learned something, or noticed something that makes me absolutely sick with disgust. I’ve noticed unfathomable things that make me feel incredibly angry and inconsolably helpless. In those moments, I have had to remind myself to notice what those feelings are, and why I’m feeling them. That’s how I work to avoid judgement.

The second element of noticing that Oliver mentions is telling others about what you noticed. This feels especially specific in the context of an English class, and especially one as collaborative as this. Here, we read, notice, and learn how to share our findings with our peers, and potentially the public.

For me, Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid has been an awesome (in the true meaning of the word) example of deeply noticing, learning, and sharing without judging. Throughout the chapters we’ve read for class, Washington details unimaginably painful and degrading actions taken by white people at the direct physical, mental, and existential expense of millions of Black people throughout several centuries. She notices, and she shares these stories in excruciating detail, leaving nothing out, and she refrains from judgement in her writing consistently and unwaveringly. In chapter 3, Washington quotes Baron Georges Cuvier, a man who repeatedly dehumanized Africans physically and verbally, writing:

“Cuvier had once noted that Baartman possessed a tenacious memory; she also spoke Dutch, English, and French. Yet, he left her this final assessment: “‘These races with depressed and compressed skulls are condemned to a never-ending inferiority.’” ( I have a kindle edition with no page numbers, I’m sorry!)

This quote ended the entire section on Cuvier and Baartman. Washington does not share her feelings on this, she does not write angrily about the racism so clearly evident in Cuvier’s perspective. She just notices, and tells about it. It’s our job to do the same.

My job is to notice. During the first week of class, Dr. McCoy asked us to look up the age of consent Wikipedia page, and read the “history” tab. Many of us were immediately appalled seeing ages of consent as low as 7 years old throughout American history, and as low as 14 in very recent years. The goal behind the exercise was a reminder to notice. Historical context is important to notice in regards to action and intention in our readings during this course. While reading Toni Morrison’s Home, I mentioned in our class discussion that I thought it was significant that Mrs. K was having sexual relationships with all of the teenage boys in the town, and that their mothers didn’t mind because “a local widow who didn’t want their husbands was more of a boon than a sin. Besides, their own daughters were safer that way” (90). This immediately disturbed me, and I felt that it was significant, and should have had some sort of effect on the development of the boys who were involved with her. When I brought it up in class, Dr. McCoy reminded me that I had possibly not taken note of the time period in which this was happening, and the age of consent that was legal and socially acceptable at the time.

These reminders in class never come across as judgements. They are reminders to notice everything we can—to think more, and judge less. This course is teaching me how to think actively, and carefully about my readings and my interactions in class. Last week, in groups, we discussed homeopathic and natural medicine as seen administered by Ms. Ethel to Cee in Home. I noticed there were certainly some differing opinions on the idea within my group, as I leaned toward Ms. Ethel healing Cee in the best way she knew how—and it working—and others saw it as a moral indiscretion to treat Cee the way she did. While my initial reaction to the conversation was to argue, or to feel offended, I eventually returned to our course objectives mentally and decided to share what I noticed about the healing rituals with my group. I also took the time to notice why some of my other group members may have felt the way they did, and found that all of us were operating and thinking in the same good faith despite our different backgrounds, majors and philosophies.

My goal in this class is to reach that mode of thinkING and noticING and not judging even sooner. By the end of this course, I hope I’ve practiced these skills enough so that it becomes my default response more often than not.

Works Cited:

Morrison, Toni. Home (Vintage International) (p. 90). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Washington, Harriet A.. Medical Apartheid . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Dirty Computer

I honestly really loved the Dirty Computer video, I even watched it twice. I found myself fist-pumping with her feminist lyrics. I find her views very important, and her activism very powerful, because of her intersectionalism. She is a black, queer woman, and therefore one of the most discriminated against members of American society. The empowerment in her video was clear and powerful. I also thought it was cool how she incorporated some very relevant, current events pieces. One of the girls’ underwear read “I grab back”  in reference to the counter-activism to President Trump’s remarks about “grabbing women by the pussy.” These specific pieces of activism in Monae’s video give even  more power to the work- there is no question as to what she’s advocating for and against.

response week 3

Reflecting on the course as a whole thus far, I would say my favorite reading was Tolson. I think this is because and not despite it was so difficult. Reading it was very different than reading anything I’ve ever read before. Phrases like “O peoples of the Brinks, come with the hawk’s reserve, the skeptics’ optic nerve, the prophet’s tele verve…” fill this libretto, language none of us are accustomed to understanding, and the libretto also contains a lot of foreign languages and references to African tribes and traditions that I have never heard of. Because of this, I had to do a lot of research: reading footnotes, using google translate, reading reviews and analyses online. I feel like I learned a lot about African history just from reading this poetry, as well as learning a lot about the form of an epic poem ( or Libretto ) and how it conveys stories and weaves them into a complicated, descriptive, whole tale.

My question about this piece that I might propose would be:

  1. Why would Tolson chose this form, a libretto, of writing to convey the African history it contains? It was a deliberate choice, and a difficult form, so what is the significance of it?

Week 1 – Hegel reading response

Okay, this reading made me angry. The way Hegel discussed people of color was truly disgusting, and racist and wrong. It is dangerous language and although I haven’t heard such blatant racism expressed by anyone in my own life, I know that a lot of the same things he says are words used by people today.  But the thing is, this isn’t just calling names. The idea that black culture is a “lower culture” is not only offensive, it must also be very destructive to the livelihood of black individuals in western culture. It makes me think: what kind of effects does this kind of mindset, one encouraged by daily microaggressions and wrong assumptions based on race, have on the black population? It reminded me of a book I’m currently  reading, So You Want To Talk About Race. This book describes that these words and assumptions have a MAJOR effect on the way African Americans are treated. Because of the assumption that “black culture” is less sophisticated than “white culture,” African Americans can often be written off as less intelligent and according to author Ijeoma Oluo, the darker the skin of the African American, the more likely people are to assume this. This immediately puts black Americans at a disadvantage for getting jobs which leads to a poorer demographic of African Americans which leads to African Americans living in poorer communities and school districts, which puts them at a disadvantage for getting higher education, which only reinforces the stereotype. This cycle is based on small, seemingly insignificant, things people say or assume about African Americans, and it has more of an effect on their lives and communities than I think any white person (myself included, of course) could ever understand.

In response to the Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

“The Good Gray Bard in Timbuktu chanted:

‘Europe is an empty python in hiding grass!'”

This quote could be viewed as a warning. The fact that the crier of this quote is described by Tolson as “good” most likely means he is doing something helpful, or kind, for the community in Timbuktu as he describes Europe. Most importantly, the way the bard describes Europe as “an empty python” is a strong metaphor of Europe as a colonizing force as well as a threatening slave trader. Pythons are vicious and venomous and powerful, just as Europe was, colonizing Africa and forcing out native cultures, and then kidnapping millions of Africans to be enslaved. The adjective empty also goes to show that Europe is not satisfied, and is always hungry for more lands and people to conquer and make use of for themselves. The “hiding grass” paints a picture of the Europeans just waiting to pounce on other parts of Africa and make them their own.

That was one bit I analyzed, and I analyzed a few other parts of the Libretto as well, but in all honesty I found a lot of the reading pretty hard to read and understand. A lot of what I got from the passage was that one of Tolston’s main intents was documenting for current and future Africans and people of African descent, the histories and backgrounds of African culture as well as what the African people went through during the peak of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.