The American Nurses Association (ANA) took historic action on June 11 when its highest governing body voted unanimously to adopt the ANA Racial Reckoning Statement. This action by the ANA Membership Assembly is a meaningful first step for the association to acknowledge its own past actions that have negatively impacted nurses of color and perpetuated systemic racism (nursingworld.org/RacialReckoningStatement).
The Journey of Racial Reconciliation, the name for ANA’s racial reckoning journey, acknowledges and aims to address ANA’s past actions, take accountability, sincerely apologize, seek forgiveness, contribute to healing, and foster reconciliation with nurses of color, ethnic-minority nursing associations, and other communities that have been harmed. In addition, ANA is striving for a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable professional organization to meet the needs of all nurses and people.
“We know that ANA’s work to reckon with our historical and institutional racist actions and inactions is long overdue,” said ANA Enterprise CEO Loressa Cole, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “Racism is an assault on the human spirit, and we want to be accountable for our part in perpetuating it. We have certainly failed many nurses of color and ethnic-minority nursing organizations, undoubtedly damaging our relationship with them and in so doing, diluting the richness of the nursing profession. We ask forgiveness from nurses of color as a first step to mend what is broken.”
According to a survey of more than 5,600 nurses nationwide conducted in October 2021 by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing, more than half of nurses of color have experienced racism in the workplace, and the majority also believe it has negatively affected their professional development (nursingworld.org/survey-on-racism).
At this pivotal moment in its history, ANA has an opportunity to help those harmed by its past missteps, which include both acts of omission, when the association failed to act, and acts of commission, when its actions caused harm and perpetuated systemic racism. The ANA Board of Directors and the association have committed to specific actions and efforts, which include apologizing for past harms that are made known to ANA and engaging in direct reconciliation with each of the ethnic-minority nurses associations.
As part of this journey, Cole issued a public apology, calling for all nurses to read the reckoning statement in its entirety and to thoughtfully consider emotions that may arise (ANA Racial Reckoning Apology -YouTube).
Cole also extended an apology on behalf of ANA to nurses attending the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) 50th Annual Conference in Chicago on July 27. NBNA was formed in 1971 by a group of Black nurses, led by Lauranne Sams, PsyD, MSN, who experienced limited opportunities for leadership, influence, and membership growth for Black nurses within ANA.
“Dr. Lauranne Sams accurately outlined our failures in 1970 that led to the formation of NBNA,” Cole said. “Our failures led to concerns about the lack of Black nurses in leadership positions at ANA, limited opportunities for Black nurses to shape ANA policies, persistent tokenism, and lack of significant increases in the number of Black nurses, to name a few.”
She added, “We know many nurses of color may not accept our apology and this statement will not right all our wrongs. Yet, we seek to acknowledge past actions that continue to impact the profession today, and carve a path toward the future, and a restored profession.”
ANA continues to seek opportunities for apology and reconciliation with ethnic-minority nursing organizations.
To read the statement in full and stay connected with ANA on its journey, visit nursingworld.org/RacialReckoningStatement.
For frequently asked questions about ANA’s racial reckoning, visit nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/racism-in-nursing/RacialReckoningStatement/frequently-asked-questions-about-racial-reckoning.