The United States was created on the basis of racial inequity. Although, there has been improvement over the past 100 years, it is clear that there is a need for change. In Tweedy’s books, Black Man In A While Coat, He describes how racism effects black peoples lives across the USA. In this essay I will argue that racism presents itself in institution. To strengthen this argument, I will use an example about academics and higher education in Tweedy’s book.
Institutional racism is in no means a novel idea. It is clear that black Americans face issues that white Americans rarely, or never have to worry about. One of the more complicated and controversial topics Tweedy discusses in his book, are scholarships to the black community. The scholarships are in intended to ensure diversity and equity in universities. However, Tweedy describes how this can lead to academic inequality in the classroom. Tweedy states, “It is often said that the hardest part of an Ivy League education is getting admitted. But for a significant group of black students, surviving medical school is a real hurdle” (Tweedy 23). Tweedy is stating that majority of black people who enter into prestigious colleges are not academically prepared for the rigor of the school work. This leads to an increase in black students who have to repeat courses. This is an example of institutional racism. Although no one is outrightly being racist. The system (academia) is set up in a way that helps disadvantage individuals receive a quality education. However, it puts people from diverse back grounds on an uneven playing field when it comes to succeeding in school.
- Tweedy, Damon. Black Man in a White Coat: a Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine. Picador,
A Dogs is a Man’s Bestfriend
In class we have discussed how metaphors can be helpful and limiting when it comes to describing a person’s experience with an illness. Throughout Dunlap-Shohl’s graphic medical novel My Degeneration, he uses metaphors to explain his journey with Parkinson’s disease. Dunlap-Shohl uses Philippee Petit’s, walk on wire between the twin towers, as metaphors to explain what it is like to live with Parkinson’s disease. In this essay I will argue that the strengths and weaknesses of the metaphor mentioned above and finally I will explain how the dogs in this novel are also a metaphor for living with Parkinson’s disease.Image 1 Pages 4, 23 and 78
The second metaphor, Dunlap-Shohl uses is Philippee Petit’s walk on wire between the twin towers. This metaphor does a great job at capturing the fear and the important decisions he has to make every step of the way. Similar to how Dunlap-Shohl has to be careful which the decisions he has to make while having Parkinson’s. For example, Dunlap-Shohl has to make tough decisions like, taking medicines at a certain time of the to avoid unwanted side effects or withdrawals, deciding whether or not to get neurosurgery (Dunlap-Shohl 72), or simply relearning how to walk (Dunlap-Shohl 35) etc.. The task of doing these things are simple, but the emotional stress it puts on individual is similar to the idea of taking the next step on a wire. One lapse of good judgement while walking on wire can lead to a serious injury or death. Similar to the decisions Dunlap-Shohl is taking.
It is important to note that the wire metaphor has weaknesses. Dunlap-Shohl states, “The only way is forward,” but this isn’t true (Dunlap-Shohl 92). Someone could choose to jump off. Which is what Dunlap-Shohl considered doing at the very beginning of the book. Many people who struggle from chronic illnesses die by suicide. Also, most people realize that having a chronic condition is scary, but Dunlap-Shohl brings up the positive things that come out of it (Dunlap-Shohl 42-44). One might argue that getting to the other side of the rope is a positive experience but with Parkinson’s there is no “end of the rope” except for death. Meaning, the disease is chronic and it does not stop so once one reaches the end of the “rope” with Parkinson’s, there isn’t much to celebrate. Whereas in real life, there are many things to celebrate along the way, or on the journey through Parkinson’s disease.
Of course, there are many valuable pieces to the wire metaphor, but I think the strongest and most subtle metaphors in this book are his dogs. Image 1 shows three different dogs that he interacts with in more than one drawing. The dogs represent what it is like to live with Parkinson’s disease. All dogs are dogs, just like everyone with Parkinson’s disease has the disease but it doesn’t look the same on everyone. Just as none of the dogs in the book look the same but they look similar. When Dunlap-Shohl was diagnosed with the Parkinson’s he had to relearn how to take care of himself. At first it was difficult and he had to accept help from his friends and family. This is similar to what it is like when someone gets a puppy. The owner has to take care of the puppy, get to know the puppy and teach it to behave. Teaching a dog to behave can be similar to learning new triggers/symptoms from a disease. It takes times to identify what they are and it takes a medical staff (help) identifying what the triggers are and how to make them stop. With practice and patience, a patient learns the new tricks to taking care of themselves and they can begin to enjoy their new way of life. They may have flair ups but they have mostly got it under control. A person with Parkinson knows they will eventually die from the disease, but they can keep a positive light on it because they are learning that living with a chronic disease is about enjoying each day and not counting to the days they die. This is similar to the life of a dog. Eventually the puppy grows up and it is trained properly, but sometime the dog has accidents inside the house (like flareups with Parkinson’s disease). Dogs do not count down the days to they die, they live one day at a time. Of course not everyone is dog person and this might by synonymous to the people who are not as lucky as Dunlap-Shohl to have the resources to seek the same treatment he had. However, the metaphor works.
- Dunlap-Shohl, Peter. My Degeneration: a Journey through Parkinson’s. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016.
Many of the strongest people we see today experience many tragedies. This is clear in Nancy Mair’s story “On Being a Cripple.” Mair’s character is consistently empowering, yet the way she expresses her experience being a “cripple” is obviously frustrating for her. In this reading response I will discuss the complexity and strength of Nancy’s character.
At the beginning of the story Mair’s clearly tell the audience that is self aware when she discusses falling in a bathroom stall. She tells the audience that she couldn’t help but laugh at herself after falling and struggling to get up because she is crippled. Yet, begins to explain that she would not have been able to laugh at herself had she not been alone. This is an example of Mair’s complexity and strength.
Mair is complex because she realizes that her mishap is unfortunate and frustrating. Yet, she is also has enough self-awareness to not take herself so seriously. On top of not being in denial and she identifies a key issues with how society perceives disability and in her article she discusses how societies response (even though it is kind) can end up being limiting and frustrating for someone who is disabled.
At the beginning of her story she says “One may also loses one’s sense of humor. That’s the easiest to lose and the hardest to survive without.” This quote show the strength and empowerment of Mairs character. She is identifying that being crippled is not easy, and there are many things that she may not get to experience again, but she also realizes that life is short and there are many beautiful wonderful things that she still gets to experience. Therefor her sense of humor is a mechanism of strength (when used appropriately).
In this article I have argued the complexities and strengths of Nancy Mair’s character by using her example of falling in a bathroom stall and her ability to laugh at the situation.