Social Justice: Me, You, and Us

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At the heart of all social justice movements, there is a central theme: we are all interconnected. Social justice is about you, it’s about me, and it’s about us.

ALL of us.

Last week, professional counselors gathered from all across the southwestern region of Virginia for a Fall Forum. The Southwest Virginia Counselors Association hosted a full-day workshop focused on social justice advocacy.  We discussed a broad range of topics such as racial justice, the LGBTQ+ rights movement, environmental justice, Appalachian heritage and stigma, and Medicare coverage for mental health counseling for older adults, among others. The day was full of inspiration to take action in meaningful ways.

I was honored to deliver the keynote address on “Social Justice Advocacy: Taking Meaningful Action Toward Change.” We conceptualized broad issues of social justice impacting counselors’ work and our clients’ lives. We joined together to talk about how we can engage in social justice advocacy efforts and devise meaningful strategies to impact change.  We considered our own backgrounds and social and cultural identities. We considered how our intersecting identities impact our work as counselors. We thoughtfully reflected on our own personal experiences of injustices, suspending any judgement or evaluation of the severity.  We allowed ourselves to connect with the feeling of what it is like to be treated unfairly, misunderstood, marginalized, or discriminated against.

We used 3 guiding concepts – educate, demonstrate, advocate – to frame our discussions on meaningful action steps. There were a wide range of social justice areas counselors identified that they wanted to focus their efforts toward – in schools, in communities, in agencies, and in the Appalachian region of Virginia.  

We talked about how every action step matters, no matter the scale. Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the number of things we have to do in a given week and advocacy can feel like just one more thing.  However, many of us are engaged in advocacy on a regular basis, we just don’t acknowledge it as such. Choosing to recycle is a contribution toward environmental justice. Choosing to educate someone about what non-binary means is a step toward increasing awareness about gender diversity. Every action, even “small” ones, are ways of participating in social justice advocacy.

Let’s raise our critical consciousness about issues of equality – equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal treatment for ALL people.  How are you contributing to a more just society? Acknowledge the ways you are already contributing.  Stretch into the areas you have been feeling hesitant about.  What is holding you back? What would one small action step look like?

Fall Forum workshop presenters (from left): Dr. Carrie Sanders, Jon Wiley, Jennifer Condon, Dr. Laura Farmer (not pictured: Dr. Theresa Burris)

Fall Forum workshop presenters (from left): Dr. Carrie Sanders, Jon Wiley, Jennifer Condon, Dr. Laura Farmer (not pictured: Dr. Theresa Burris)