Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York
 


Throughout each semester, students of the Service-Learning Interdisiplinary Seminar reflect upon their experiences working in the Bronx community. Below are selected passages of these reflections, focusing on a variety of service and justice-related topics. Please read and enjoy! 


Kelsey Reeder, FCRH 2014
Volunteer placement: LIFT: the Bronx

On Systemic Change
"In terms of "institutionalized racism" and its effects on systemic problems in the community, I believe that the two solutions include the two feet of social justice: direct service and social change.  In order to fix discrepancies in the education system, society needs teachers who are understanding of their students situations, but more importantly, changes need to be made on an institutional level in order for students to have more resources so that they do not have to be treated differently than other children just so they can succeed.  Similarly, for housing issues, shelters are a great way to get people off of the streets and provide a temporary place of refuge for homeless individuals, but they should not have to exist at all.  If we wanted to get rid of shelters, we would have to make policy changes such as implementing a living wage so that workers could afford to rent apartments for themselves.  I could list many more examples, but what I am ultimately explaining is the serious need for social change.  Direct service is necessary when it comes to people living in poor conditions, but they will continue to live in those conditions if society does not get to the root of the issue and make a change in the way our community is governed and/or run."


Peter Morrissey, FCRH 2011
Volunteer placement: LIFT: the Bronx

On Race/Racism and Volunteering
"Phyllis Jones’ article on differentiated types of racism was a novel and refreshingly accessible reframing of institutional, personally mediated, and internalized racism. A first aspect of the article which struck me was Jones discussion of the pernicious effects of internalized racism. As a white, male, heterosexual Christian living in the United States at the dawn of the 21st century, it is no secret that my knowledge of discrimination and its effects is primarily drawn through observation and conversation, and not through firsthand experience. As such, it is easy for me to focus on the material depravation (through, for example, environmental racism or racist lending mortgage policies) that results from ambient social stigmas and on the individual discriminatory actions, while entirely missing the internalized effects of generations of institutionalized racism. That the pink flowers would want to be red is an idea I fail to give sufficient consideration in discussing the affects of racism.  The second interesting issue was Jones assignment of the role of the gardener. Jones unambiguously declares the government to be the manipulative (through action or passivity) actor rather than the somewhat cop-out “social pressure” or simply “the powerful.” This places a particular onus on the government to be involved in the alleviation of historical inequalities.

 This allegory is present in my work at LIFT in a number of ways. On specifically the health front, most of my lower-income clients do not have access to quality healthcare; in many cases, this is the result of generational poverty stemming from systemic discrimination (as discussed in, for example, South Bronx Rising). More generally, however, my clients (at least those of color) tend to have lived institutional racism and experienced the personally mediated sort in their interactions with landlords, employers, or in the streets and on the subway. The third sort remains, for me, extremely difficult to perceive. LIFT clients, I am daily reminded, are extremely upbeat and highly motivated, and this perhaps contributes to my failing to be more aware of internalized racism." 


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