In February, I had the fantastic opportunity to chat with Sophia Bush about my research at the intersection of inequality, public policy, race, class, and gender. In addition to her work as an actor, Sophia Bush is an “activist, entrepreneur, and global education access advocate,” and her Work In Progress podcast spotlights the humanitarian efforts of activists, entrepreneurs, scholars, celebrities, and politicians. This conversation happened just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, in revisiting our conversation about the HIV epidemic, safety nets, and injuries of inequality, I am reminded that so much can be gleaned about our present situation by looking at the HIV/AIDS crisis. Here are key moments from the podcast interview, the full version of which you can listen to here:
On my childhood: “As I moved through different spaces, I noticed that resources were being distributed in ways that were making major differences in people’s lives, not because of differences in hard work, but because of differences in opportunity.”
On opportunities and resources: “We’re all looking for the same thing. We’re looking for opportunities, we’re looking for resources, and we’re looking for things to be able to build in this life that we have.”
On trauma: “All of us have incidents in our lives that are disruptive, that are traumatic. But if you are also grappling with major inequities and not getting access to resources, then what does that mean in terms of that trauma being magnified and having big ripple effects?”
On the nature of opportunity: “It’s so important to think about it in that way. This idea of opportunity existing as something that can either be expanded or contracted.”
On my role as a sociologist: “I see my role as making invisible opportunity visible. So, no one is denying that you didn’t work hard. No one is denying that personal accountability matters. But, we then have to recognize that that marries to a larger opportunity structure. And, it’s an opportunity structure that privileges some on the basis of race, class, gender, and sexuality and disadvantages others on those same bases. So, when we’re able to see that, we then have a more comprehensive story and a more accurate story of how we get to where we are.”
On my book, #RemakingALife: “Remaking A Life is based on research that I conducted with HIV activists, advocates, policymakers, and women living with HIV in the US. It looks at the people, policies, and programs that have moved the needle in the HIV epidemic.”
On lessons from the HIV epidemic: “The HIV world has created a model for helping people move from ‘dying from’ to ‘living with’ to ‘thriving despite’ a significant health threat. We need to absorb the lessons & apply the tools to our present health challenges.” The work continues, and the work is necessary.