Final reflective essay

From the very beginning of this semester, the course epigraph was “you just can’t fly on off and leave a body”. When this was first introduced it made no sense it was just a jumble of words to make it sound significant or meaningful. But after we read Song of Solomon and did the collaborative essay, it started to make sense. We started to analyze the quote, what it meant, the weight behind those words, and how they can relate to our own lives. In Song of Solomon, the quote reads in a more literal sense with Pilate having the bag of bones in her house from her father’s body and Milkman with the shoebox of Hagar’s hair after she passed. How I understood the quote was you can not move on with life and ignore your past actions or where you came from. But now I see it as you are working towards improving and bettering yourself. And to do that you need to accept your past and build upon it towards a better self.

In the book, Song of Solomon, Milkman went to Virginia to try and track down the gold that Pilate left in the cave when she was a young kid after they killed the older man. When Milkman first arrived, it was a struggle but also refreshing as he had no idea where to start to try and find where Pilate could have left the gold bags. But after asking around a bit, he met Reverend Cooper; this man knew his grandfather Macon Dead as well as the woman that looked over them after their dad died, Circe. Circe was still alive, so with the help of the Reverend, he drove over to the old estate and saw her there, talking about the past and where Pilate might have gone. He followed the trail that Circe told him about and fell in the creek, “Snorting water, he cursed the creek, that was too shallow to swim and too rocky to walk” (249 Morrison). This is only the beginning of the misfortunes to come while Milkman was in Virginia following Pilate’s trail. When he finally got to the cave he saw nothing but Macon Dead’s dead body. He wondered where the gold went so he figured Pilate must have taken the gold farther south on her travels. As he was following her trail, he stopped at a convenience store to fix his car and get a drink. Someone said the wrong thing and he ended up getting into a brawl with one of the locals, “Milkman did the best he could with a broken bottle, but his face got slit, so did his left hand, and so did his pretty beige suit, and he probably would have had his throat cut if two women hadn’t come running in screaming” (268 Morrison). He clearly was losing but was saved. He went back to his car and rested after the brawl. Later that day he was invited to go hunting with some other locals that saw him fight and because it was so dark out he got separated. While he was hunting, during the dark night Guitar found Milkman and tried to take his life. Milkman fought back, “The blast startled Gutiar, and the wire slipped again. Guitar pulled it back, but Milkman knew his friend would need both hands to keep it that way” (279 Morrison). He survived the night but now he knows his old friend was out for his life. Someone he previously thought he could trust turned his back on him and now he must fear for his life in an unknown environment. After this event, he stayed in the area for a while and didn’t find the gold but did find out the history of his family and who his grandfather and grandmother were. At this point, he didn’t care about the gold but was more excited to find out the truth.

The transition from high school to college has been a difficult and long path. The effort required and work needed don’t compare. In high school, all I had to do was pass my classes and then I could forget whatever I learned that year. For all 4 years that was the process, I had used. The classes weren’t hard so I didn’t feel the need to study and fully understand the material. There wasn’t any incentive to achieve anything greater than what I could get with the bare minimum effort. And the worse part is I didn’t feel like I was truly prepared for what college had to offer. All the teachers would say “this is getting you ready for college” but once you experience it you realize that they didn’t do much to get you ready. When the first week of classes started at college I could tell that this would be nothing like high school. The classes were challenging and went through material faster than I could keep up. At first, it didn’t seem like a lot but ignore it for one day then it instantly starts to pile up. And instead of due dates being the day after they would sometimes be a week later and the feeling of procrastination would set in, then the stress would build up making it hard to push yourself to do anything. It was one exam after the other and most review you had to do by yourself instead of doing it in class and review sessions would be held later in the day. One of the biggest differences in college is, the grade you want depends on how much effort you put in. In high school, the teachers helped you every step of the way to make sure you passed. Now they just give you advice, and it’s on the student to put in the extra effort and study or go to the review sessions provided by S.I.’s or by the professor. This was the hardest part for me was learning to push myself to achieve a better grade than the bare minimum. I didn’t want to study or go out of my way to go to review sessions, but I knew that if I didn’t then my grades would suffer.

When Milkman in Song of Solomon went to Virginia to follow the trail of gold he went through similar events that I did going into college. The change of environment and the unfamiliar faces forced both of us to grow. When he first arrived, it was an unknown place without a familiar face to help him, similar to when I first arrived. I was dropped off in my room with a stranger that I had never met before and in a new environment where I didn’t know anything. Eventually, he found the Reverend Cooper that knew his family, and I found a group of people that I considered friends. Along with knowing no one, we both didn’t know our environment. He might have wandered the wilderness trying to find the cave his father and Pilate slept in. But I was wandering around campus and the halls of buildings trying to find my classes. It took both of us a while to understand what the epigraph meant, but once we did we were able to grow as a person and take meaning from it. The difference is in the book the quote “you just can’t fly on off and leave a body” (147 Morrison) is taken literally whereas I interpreted it as you can’t move on in life and ignore your past, instead embrace your past and grow from it. For me, I reflected on my old efforts and study habits and am trying harder for a better grade than what I could get and actually learning the material rather than just knowing it for the test. Milkman reflected on his mistakes and acknowledged them instead of leaving them in the past. This can be seen when he takes the box of Hagar’s hair after she died and puts it on himself to acknowledge her existence in his life, instead of leaving her in his past and forgetting about her. Although the lesson learned and the interpretation are different, both Milkman and I acknowledged our past and flaws and used them to improve ourselves instead of sticking to our bad habits.

“You just can’t fly on off and leave a body”, this quote has driven our course throughout the semester. As our course epigraph, we always went back to it and referenced it to find what it meant for each of us. I thought it meant you must embrace your past and use it to grow as a scholar, take your past habits or previous knowledge, and use that to grow on what could be improved or what works. Others might have a different way of thinking but I believe that this is how it’s supposed to be interpreted based on the book and Milkman’s experiences going to Virginia and the lessons he learned.

Guitar’s quote analysis

Tia Blossomgame, Maddy Flynn, Jay Petrie, Iliana Papadopoulos, Lesly Tepato

Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon offers a variety of perspectives of African-Americans facing racial inequalities in the early twentieth-century. One character in particular, named Guitar, stands out for his angry disposition towards the treatment of his people. We are able to witness Guitar’s childhood growth of hate towards white Americans develop into a hate that leads Guitar to take justice into his own hands by seeking “balance” through killing white citizens for every black life taken. Compared to other characters who are aware yet passive towards the racial inequality, Guitar offers a refreshing perspective of what it may have felt like to be abandoned by a government that discriminates against people of color and having no one to rely on but your own self/community. Because of Guitar’s “eye for an eye” ideology, readers are able to unpack Guitar’s analysis on his quote “I told you. Numbers. Balance. Ratio. And the earth, the land”. These 5 things were the key to American society during the time the book was written and was clearly distributed unequally between black and white people. African Americans did almost all of the work while white people sat back and reaped the reward. The book From Here To Equality talks about the injustices the African American community has faced throughout history that can be related to Guitar’s quote in Song of Solomon. Therefore, we are able to use Guitar’s quote as a stepping stone to analyze the numerous injustices that the African American community has faced on the road to equality in a deeper context.

The major injustices faced by African Americans throughout history mainly demonstrate an imbalance of power, representation and equality. Ever since the civil rights movement, the fight for equality and balance has been a struggle. It can be seen that the fight for equality has been a long and tedious process. Regardless of how many African American people fought for their fair share of justice and equality, they were always outnumbered by white people. White people had all the power, money and superiority as a whole. By having this power they had the privilege to earn much more (and not just in terms of money) than African Americans or any other race in the country. Which is why they did not want to risk losing all the power and money and their fulfillment of superiority trying to balance that power with people of color. Even if it means that they resort to violence to keep their power. A great example of this is given in Part 5 of From Here to Equality on pg 209, “In 1875, (Gleed) he ran for sheriff of Lowndes County, Mississippi, by which point registered black voters, Republicans mostly, outnumbered white voters, who largely were aligned with the Democratic Party—3,800 to 1,250…The night before the 1875 election, “a mob of whites attacked a parade of his supporters. Four blacks were killed, one on the sidewalk in front of Gleed’s store.” This is one of many examples of the white race in America using violence to maintain power. In Song of Solomon after Guitar sees the imbalance of black deaths to white death, he chooses to balance this injustice by killing white people.

Throughout American history black people have and are still facing discrimantion through pay and representation. With all things there comes a numerical value that can be applied and in each value the African American community is usually on the worst side. As shown in From Here to Equality, “Data from the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances indicates that median black household net worth ($17,600) is only one-tenth of white net worth ($171,000). That means, on average, that for every dollar the middle white households hold in wealth- measured by assets like homes, cash savings, and retirement funds-the middle black household possesses a mere ten cents.” Data like this demonstrates how different the two groups are from each other, and because there is a big divide in lifestyles and economic statuses between both groups, it becomes even harder to try and make things equal between them since in turn, also affects the future of African Americans because they don’t have the same chances of succeeding in many aspects in life compared to white people because of the imbalance of how much they earn and how they are treated. In Song of Solomon, it is a recurring theme that Macon Dead Jr. owns all of these houses and rents them to African American people. Throughout the book, we see that most of his tenants are not able to pay their rent on time due to the fact that many did not have well paying jobs, and it took a lot of time for them to gather enough money to make sure they can keep their family fed as well as pay rent on their home. This relates to Guitar’s idea on “numbers’ ‘ because there is such a great difference in wealth between white and black people due to the racial injustices they faced for so long.

The American government was supposed to give the newly freed enslaved people land and reparations but either did not give the land or did not fully give the amount they said they would. One instance of this was the Pigford v. Glickman case, “A class action lawsuit mounted on behalf of black American farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture-was a boost to reparations proponents. The case, Pigford v. Glickman-named for Timothy Pigford, a black North Carolina farmer, and Daniel Robert Glickman, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture-was settled in the plaintiff’s favor for $1.25 billion in 1999, but ten years later no payouts had been made.” (Part 1 pg 17). This shows how even though by law the government was supposed to pay back to help the communities they delayed the process so they didn’t have to pay the black farmers. When the government decided to finally pay the farmers “Of the 22,505 applicants, 13,348 were approved and received cash or credit up to $50,000. Less than 1 percent pursued larger amounts. The largest award, $13 million was paid to the now-defunct farm collective New Communities, about a dozen farm families in the southwestern countries of Georgia.” (Part 1 pg17). Even though 22,505 people applied for the money only about 60% of the applicants got money back from the case. And even less tried to get larger amounts of money compared to the $50,000.

Even though the American government gave out these reparations there were still some things that could not be repaired. A simple but modern example of this is the reparations given through Joe Cope’s job as Associate Provost for Academic Success. Cope’s job in the education system has to deal with reparations on an academic level. For example, if a student feels they are being discriminated against on their grade, Cope would be called in to investigate any wrongdoing. If found the grade was given wrong, he would make it a pass or fail. Cope said that the pass or fail grade “counts towards a graduation requirement. It doesn’t hurt their grade point average but it doesn’t address the hurt feelings, it doesn’t address the lingering frustration about that.” This means that students would be able to move on academically. Still, the pain and discrimination that started the problem are not addressed, meaning it can continue. Similarly, The United States government gave out small reparations to try and fix the discrimination African American people faced throughout the years. Obviously Cope’s job is much different from the American government, but the way Cope handles reparations in his job is fairly similar to the American Government. These reparations did not resolve the overall pain they felt because of the problem. A great example given to us in the Song of Solomon was how after Guitar’s father dies in the factory, the white owner gives them a few dollars for their loss. Even though the money was given in good faith, it still didn’t help Guitar’s pain of losing a family member.

From Here to Equality shows the real life stories of African Americans’ injustice in United States history. These stories help shape Guitars quote “I told you. Numbers. Balance. Ratio. And the earth, the land” and give reason to his actions in Song of Solomon. There has been injustice towards African American people from the very beginning of slavery and it is still faced now in current events. It is important to our class because in both pieces of writing that we have been working with, racial injustice is prominent in both texts. Song of Solomon is more of a story-telling version of one family’s experience and what they see around them while From Here To Equality is the facts of what has actually happened in America in the past and how it has affected the community as a whole. Guitar’s quote and actions draw from the events of the past that were read about in From Here To Equality. The injustices Guitar talks about are injustices that were often faced by African Americans in the past. The education that is received while attending Geneseo is fully based on equal and fair opportunities for every student. In order to succeed, it all relies more on demonstrating work and dedication to a full potential that the person shows, rather than depending on someone’s race to prove that they have any potential. Looking at the events from the past opens everyone’s eyes to the fact that it wasn’t always this way at universities and not everyone got equal opportunities for the education that we are lucky to have and appreciate today. This was also possible because of policies that were implemented to ensure that a student should not have to experience any form of discrimination or hate based on their race as each student should be seen as an equal since we all strive for opportunities and in each different student’s eyes see success.

The blooming of a seed

“you just can’t fly on off and leave a body” – Toni Morrison, our course epigraph, one of the first things we talked about in INTD 105 writing seminar. We were told to analyze it and say what that epigraph meant to us and how it relates to our own lives. I saw it as you cannot grow as a person and leave your past self behind, instead you must embrace that side of you and grow as a person as you gain new knowledge and reflect on past experiences. For me to do that I must embrace my past and take what I’ve learned and reshape or recreate a way of doing things to become a better scholar. In the book “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison One character named Milkman faces the exact problem defined in the epigraph, he wants to live on his own and become his own person but his family and experiences where he was born stops him from leaving. He is unable to fly on-off without confronting the problems left back home similar to our own lives.

The book “Song of Solomon” is easy to get lost in, there are many instances of time jumping from one event with a character to another. Because of this, it is very easy to lose where you are in the story of Milkman our main protagonist. Compared to high school I had to use a deeper thought process to understand the premise of the story. For instance, At the beginning where the mother, Ruth, gave birth to Milkman and Mr. Smith jumped off the building and committed suicide (Morrison, 8). All of this was happening at once and the way Toni Morrison did such a good job mixing those ideas together made the reader question what was happening at the beginning of the book. But if you took the time to analyze and take a deeper look at the text the reader would be able to understand what was happening. In another instance in the text it says “let me tell you right now the one important thing you’ll ever need to know: Own things. And let the things you own other things. Then you’ll own yourself and other people too” (Morrison, 55). At first, I thought this passage was just a father trying to teach a kid a lesson about growing up, and it is, but if you look deeper at the history behind their family and the setting of the book you see it is related to their family pasts as enslaved people and how that influences how they view possessions. They have grown up knowing that owning things means power and that with those things you build up a reputation that others acknowledge. Doing this causes a part of them to die inside and makes them heartless and more closed off from their emotions.

The Syllabus provided by Dr. McCoy talks about what the course will look like this semester, what assignments we will have, and what is expected from us. But more importantly, it talks about self-grading and how it reflects our self-growth in the class stated here “Practicing how to perform meaningful, good-faith, principled self-assessment and accountability is an important professional and personal skill.” (McCoy Syllabus). I thought this was interesting because no other class that I’ve taken so far graded like that. In high school, it was all about getting good grades and remembering the information until the next test then it would fade away over the summer, but one thing that I remember Dr. McCoy saying is “I want you to learn something instead of remembering it”. What she said really piqued my interest because in school we really were just told to remember the information given instead of learning it by heart. For me to grow as a person and expand my horizons I need to take what I am taught by heart. I can’t do what I did in high school and just retain the knowledge until I didn’t need it anymore. The self-assessment is graded under many different categories scaling from 1-4. How much you look back at the documents provided to answer a question or improve your writing, participation in class discussions, using evidence to support my claim or my interpretation of the text, applying feedback from my peers into my writing, and giving feedback to my peers so they can grow as a person also. All the things listed might seem small and insignificant separated but together they are skills that people can use to improve their writing or advance the way they think. And taking what advice others give me I can use that to change what I have learned and break bad habits and improve my skills.

In the writing seminar class, there are about twenty people along with Professor McCoy, each with their own background that makes them think differently. One part of the syllabus talked about self-reflection and improving myself through our peer’s feedback and helping them with my own feedback and thoughts. It has been about 6 weeks of class but in that time, I can tell that each person has their own way of thinking and approaching information given to them and from that, I can use that help to me improve how I write and hopefully I can do the same for them. During each class, we get into discussions about either the book, vocab, a topic, or all three sometimes. But each time I get to understand how the people in my group think about a topic and I can use that to help me understand the topic better or understand their point of view better.

“you just can’t fly on off and leave a body” – Toni Morrison, For me to grow better and achieve higher heights I need to change and embrace new ways of learning. And the first step is knowing what I have learned so far and taking that, improving on it, and growing as a scholar.