During my three years as a member of the Brandeis community, I have been deeply absorbed in and profoundly impacted by the Brandeis culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. Brandeis considers social justice as one of its central missions, aims to involve students in this just and inclusive campus culture, and encourages students to become active citizens in this multicultural world. I am grateful that I can experience such campus culture while going through the stage of my life where I am establishing values and building self-identity.
Through social norms and expectations, we grow up to know about social identity categories such as socioeconomic status, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Such learned social identity categories can be the roots of discrimination and bias, as people are often defined and confined by these categories. One morning during this summer when I took the commuter rail from Waltham to Chelsea for work, I noticed the diversity in the carriage of people from different cultures with different jobs. I was struck by the fact that I never felt labeled based on my race, gender, age, or any other social identity categories. In that carriage, I did not feel like I was labeled as an Asian or a girl; I was just a person who was ready to start another day of life like everyone else in that carriage. After all, we are all the same after stripping off the identities society imposes on us. Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other social identity categories, we should all be given the same opportunity to pursue our dreams. The world we are now living in is far from perfect. In fact, it is unfortunately full of inequity, bias, and discrimination. When I think back, I feel extremely grateful that the Brandeis campus culture and the people I am close to have given me the reassurance to disregard the identity categories the world tries to impose on me and the confidence to stand as equal to pursue my dreams.
Lee Anne Bell (2013) defines social justice in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice as “full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs.” While I am lucky enough to have such a supportive environment and the resources, such as a college education, to reach towards my dreams, many people are not given the same opportunities to meet their needs. There are many poor communities suffering from the reverberations of perpetual imprisonment, sustained violence, and family instability. Each year, tens of thousands of inmates are either released from Massachusetts correctional facilities or are serving probation sentences. The high risk 17-24 year old young men are the target population of Community Psychiatry PRIDE’s interventional model. Because of the way resources are allocated in our society, these young men in poor communities are disadvantaged in terms of education, more vulnerable to mental health problems, and more prone to crimes. The problem progresses as there is lack of the resources necessary to keep themselves from re-offending and returning to jail. More efficient programs are needed to give them the chance to change behavior, keep a job, and break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.
Community Psychiatry PRIDE’s local community partner organization aims to build transformational relationships with high-risk young men through outreach to those who suffer from reverberations of crime and poverty. Community Psychiatry PRIDE hopes that by engaging these young men in stage-based programming, they can provide resources necessary for these high-risk young men to break the cycle of incarceration and poverty. Community Psychiatry PRIDE’s role in this program is to develop an evidence-based treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy tailored to the community’s specific struggles. We hope this program can help high-risk young men to move out of violence and into jobs.
-Bingyu Xu ’19