Social justice needs a new framework
Bridgette Picou

I find myself struggling to write these days. When I have time to sit and think, I feel like I’m going in a hundred directions at train wreck speed. Complete with that feeling you get as you watch the wreck about to happen, but can’t stop it. I’m struggling with social anxiety while trying to remain balanced and to not be scarred by resentment and anger at the sight of another unarmed black man killed.

Sometimes HIV is not my biggest problem. There are periods of time when I have my HIV and all its little subtleties well in hand. It’s the rest of the world’s influences and changes that mess me up. So much change in the world, with no progress. The sheer volume of change is crazy to think about, but the fact that there has been little to no progress is mind boggling.

George Floyd’s murder in the spring of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the protests that brought people of all backgrounds together, but led to no real police reform is an example. The recent Supreme Court rulings on abortion, the environment, and concealed carry laws are yet other examples of major changes in society. They are all rulings that will affect the world at large either through trickle down effects (environment and policing) or directly (Roe v. Wade), but are they progress? I argue not. We’re regressing. Where is justice and peace of mind? What basic rights to personal and individual autonomy will we lose next? It’s scary. Your opinion may differ on whether one or the other moves us forward or backward, but the fact remains that they will affect us all. Social identity and privilege will play a role in how you are impacted, as will where you live geographically and your own sense of your place in the world. Justice for one (or some) doesn’t translate into justice for all.

‘So much change in the world, with no progress.’

The black community has a saying when it comes to justice. There is no justice, there is “just us.” I first remember hearing it in a Richard Pryor joke, but black folks’ jokes are often rooted in a feeling of needing to deflect trauma with humor. “Just us” is a long-running sentiment—we feel like that because of systems in place that constantly test our worth as humans and shake up our place in the world. I think a whole new segment of people are feeling that shaking right now but I cannot feel good about it.

I, for one, am feeling the sway of the constant bombardment of negative information. Book banning, phobias about everything LGBTQ related, regular news about unarmed black men killed, black women coming up missing, attempts to call slavery and race issues anything but what they are: politics— it’s constantly rattling my idea of what common sense in society and sociology should be. For me, my social identity is not just my family and friends or my social activities and communities. It’s the overlap and interconnection of those things with my work/life balance. It’s the framework and services that support those things. That framework hasn’t been particularly fair, but at least it was there. Social justice needs a new framework. It needs new services to rebuild in a more balanced way. It needs “just us.”

All of us. 

Bridgette Picou, LVN, ACLPN, is a licensed vocational and certified AIDS Care Nurse in Palm Springs, California. She works for The Well Project-HIV and Women as their Stakeholder Liaison. Bridgette is the president-elect of the Greater Palm Springs Chapter of ANAC (the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care), and a sitting member of the board of directors for HIV & Aging Research Project-Palm Springs (HARP-PS). Bridgette’s goal is to remind people that there are lives being lived behind a three- or four-letter acronym.