Audrey Godlewski’s Hate Speech: Another Example of Nurses’ Anti-Racist Complacency – Where do we Nurses go from Here?

Contributor: Ashley M. Ruiz PhD, RN 

Higher education institutions fail BIPOC students.

If we [Nurses] think trauma science is true, then the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a problem. Audrey Godlewski and her hilarious friends are one example of this problem. Rather than address the problem, UW structures like the Black Cultural Center hand out coupons for ice cream to sweep away the problem (Escott & Goldhaber, 2023).

If you are not familiar with the situation, Audrey Godlewski’s friends posted a video on TikTok showing her saying, “every f–ing little N-word who f–ing did me wrong” and force them to “pick f–ing cotton” until their bodies “dry out because of how much cotton they’re picking for me”. 

In response, students at UW-Madison are calling for the student to be expelled.  In response, the University released this statement: “While the university can’t limit what students and employees post to their personal social media accounts and can’t take action against posts that are not unlawful, racist slurs do not represent or reflect UW–Madison values around creating an inclusive community,” (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2023). 

The student captured in this video works as a CNA and has been pursuing a career in healthcare.  UW-Madison School of Nursing determined the student was not enrolled in one of their Nursing programs.  Therefore, school administrators are washing their hands of the situation by declaring no affiliation.

As a Nurse Scientist that studies re-traumatization caused by nurses responding to racialized and gendered experiences of violence, this is yet another example of nurses’ complacency in failing to address racialized trauma.  Where are nurse leaders at the local, state, and national level in responding to this situation?  Do we as a profession agree and find it acceptable to have someone that has caused detrimental harm to BIPOC Badgers (and BIPOC folks broadly) to be capable of providing basic nursing skills to those we serve safely? How does this represent our current and future workforce?  What does this say about our “commitments” to meeting the health needs of those we serve?  How does this impact efforts of building trusting relationships with communities with a historical and ongoing record of being mistreated within healthcare and academic institutions?

To be clear, Audrey Godlewski and her friends viral hate video are not just a single isolated event.  Audrey Godlewski, and her friends, reflects the pervasive culture of hate that is taught to be acceptable in the social environment.  Racialized environments in academia and educational institutions are not only created, but they are sustained (Shahram, 2023).  This is recognized in one report released by the National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing (2022), which focuses on the impact of racism across the nursing profession including academia and education.

Despite this recognition, Madison-educated nurses claim a prestigious commitment to excellence while washing their hands of systemic and interpersonal racism in their backyard. How can they do both?

I say to anti-racist Madisonian scholars, specifically in Nursing, “Where are you?”.  Your silence is violence. If you’re going to be using “anti-racist” frameworks to further your own professional trajectory as a White or White-passing nurse, why have you not taken action? 

Throughout my trajectory in nursing, a trajectory that started in Madison, I have watched other Audrey Godlewski’s next to me excel in this profession.  Not because they were innately “meant” to be a nurse, but because the social structures starting with nursing education are designed to support White nurses.

So where can we go from here?  We can start by revoking Audrey Godlewski’s CNA license.  We can start by developing specific guidelines requiring nurses to demonstrate their ability to be anti-racist.  Join us this Saturday, May 20th at Reckoning with Racism in Nursing to discuss next steps.


Escott, G. & Goldhaber, N.  (2023).  ‘We f-ed up’: ASM apologizes as Students Blast UW-Madison Leaders            for Racist Video Response.  Retrieved from      fed-up-asm-apologizes-as-students-blast-uw-madison-leaders-for-racist-video-response

National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing.  (2022).  Retrieved from    -to-address-racism/racism-in-nursing-report-series.pdf

Shahram S. Z. (2023). Five ways ‘health scholars’ are complicit in upholding health inequities, and how to            stop. International journal for equity in health, 22(1), 15.  01763-9

University of Wisconsin—Madison.  (2023).  UW-Madison responds to social media video.  Retrieved  from

About Ashley Ruiz

I am currently a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Arizona State University. I earned my PhD in Nursing, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. The research I am focusing on examines the healthcare response to Black and Indigenous women’s experiences of sexual assault. Specifically, the research I am continuing examines interactions in healthcare that cause secondary victimization (re-traumatization) to survivors of sexual assault.

See also my blog post on from October 2022, title “A Pinay’s Reflection“.

“Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” zoom gathering on May 20th!

Our May “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” zoom gathering will be on May 20th!  We will be discussing the film “Exposed” – a groundbreaking documentary that combines the stories of 19 Black, brown and migrant nurses and midwives in the UK speaking about their powerful experiences of racism before, during and after the pandemic.  You can view the film in advance (included below), or join us at 3 pm Eastern on May 20th, before our regular “overdue” zoom discussion.  Here are the details:

  • 3:00 pm Eastern – Showing of the film “Exposed”
  • 4:00 pm Eastern – Discussion of the film with the producer and nurses featured in the film!


When you register, you will receive the meeting link and the dates for all of the spring sessions from Zoom.

Note: If you lose the zoom information, come back here and register again!

A White Nurse’s Response to the ANA Apology

Contributor – Elizabeth R. Berrey, PhD, RNCS (Retired)
Project team member, NurseManifest 2002
Emancipatory Study of Nursing Practice

ANA Enterprises and professional nursing colleagues:

I acknowledge that I am very late in writing this email. Nevertheless, it is, unfortunately, still timely. I ask that this communication be taken seriously by my professional association, of which I have been a member since 1967, and by others of you on the board of the American Nurse journal, and years-long professional colleagues.

Elizabeth Berrey

For the record, I am a white womon.

It is time for me to renew my annual membership in the ANA, my professional organization. I am deliberating as to whether renewing my membership for another year is the correct action or if dropping my membership is the more powerful action. This deliberating is a direct consequence of ANA’s so-called Racial Reckoning Statement published some months ago.

I wish I could have written sooner; this ANA statement has been printed out & on my desk as a constant reminder of the harm continuing to be done to nurses and patients by, and now I’m going to say it here, my so-called “professional” organization. I simply have not had the wherewithal at this point in my life to attempt to address the egregiousness of this statement, nor of ANA VP, Cheryl Peterson’s thoroughly embarrassing interview with Rev. Al Sharpton.

Additionally, in this month’s American Nurse, as well as in various statements on the ANA Enterprises site, the fact that this white-dominated, indeed white supremacist organization is “seeking forgiveness” – !?!? – from “nurses of color…and communities we have harmed….” is what is still being stated & published. This tells me that this organization knows no better. The ANA is still seeking the easier, softer way, for certain. There is no understanding of that this is written from a white fragility perspective. When I was in a multiracial discussion with a group of nurses about this ANA statement, one of the Black nurses (a current & longstanding ANA member) asked with total disgust in her voice, “Who did they pay to write this? And how much did it cost?”

Totally apt.

More thoughts on this “seeking forgiveness”:

I was honored to be selected a few years ago to actively serve on the Restorative Justice team of the community college at which I was an administrator of several health programs, including nursing. Trust me. Those harmed were in no way expected to forgive. In fact, making amends/making restoration/paying reparations, and so forth necessitates complete and total contrition of the perpetrator of the harm done, and a genuine and determined commitment & persistence in changing those behaviors, one’s ignorance, and the like.

Here in New Mexico, where I have lived and worked for over a decade in nursing education and for the regulation/licensure board, a separate professional nursing organization had been formed, the Native American Indian Nurses Association (NAINA). The ANA Statement does not satisfactorily address why this, and other such organizations, remain such necessities.

Other serious concerns which must be addressed by the leadership of ANA Enterprises and the constituent associations:

  • ANA’s Code of Ethics does not address the harm we’ve done and continue to do. It does not reflect our practice/who we think we are. Correct this. Now.
  • Develop and implement post haste a plan of action for the ANA to be a true ally in the work of undermining and dismantling the dominant, white, patriarchy and thereby creating structural change.

I spent 37 yrs in Cleveland, OH, as a nurse in direct practice, in healthcare administration (including serving on the board of a major county hospital and on the OBN), and graduate nursing education. (For the record, I also started the 1st private practice in nursing in Ohio.) And I was very active in ONA/GCNA. During that time, I began my work as a social justice activist, as well. Truly, I thought that that was an imperative of nursing as a profession. One of my responsibilities was serving as president, and on the distribution committee, of the Women’s Community Foundation. This was some 3 decades ago when we at the Foundation learned – and practiced – that we did not ask “them” to join “our” table. No. We asked/listened/learned how we could join their table – and very importantly, how we should comport ourselves there. We learned how to, at a minimum, be allies, but hopefully, be even more – be accomplices [see chapter in Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism on “Accomplices”] – in the work of creating structural change.

I have written in anger. And grave displeasure at what you, ANA, have so proudly(!) produced – and continue to propagate. This document serves the white patriarchal dominant culture. It, in fact, serves to perpetuate – and strengthen – the systems of oppression. Tokenism on boards and staffs of professional associations, healthcare organizations, and educational institutions does not belie the immense harm that a document such as ANA’s Statement perpetuates.

So. Should I continue to belong to the ANA/NMNA? Does adding my name on these rolls, or as one single individual, give acquiescence, or worse yet, give strength and voice to these systemic oppressions? I am aware that my minimal retirement dues will make essentially no financial impact, should they be withdrawn. I would like to think that my loyalty to my professional organization and my service to it and to my beloved profession for over 1/2 century do matter. And that the removal of even just one nurse does have meaning.

As of this moment, I think I shall renew my membership for another year, trusting that this communication from me will make a difference.

I look forward to hearing from you,especially from those of you at ANA and American Nurse.

Onward! ~Elizabeth

Elizabeth R. Berrey, PhD, RNCS (Retired)
USANC/CPT (Honorable Discharge)
US Congress Declaration: Elizabeth Berrey Day (10 December 1985)
New Mexico Nursing Legend (2019)

Coming Up – February 18th Zoom Gathering, & Spring 2023 “Overdue Reckoning” Focus Groups!

This coming Saturday, February 18th, we will celebrate Black History Month during our Zoom meeting! Be sure to register here!

Also, just posted – the dates and times for a series of focus groups for “Overdue” participants! These groups, organized and led by Lucinda Canty, provide an opportunity for you to share how the “Overdue” sessions have influenced you and what are steps are needed for nursing to become a diverse, inclusive, anti-racist and equitable profession. We will have special focus groups for nursing students, nurses of color, white nurses, and nurses with over 40 years of nursing experience.

Here are the dates, times and registration links!

Undergraduate Nursing students of color/new graduate nurses

Undergraduate Nursing students of color/new graduate nurses

Doctoral Students: Nurses enrolled in doctoral programs – PhD/DNP

Nurses of Color

Nurses of Color

White nurses

© 2023 Lucinda Canty

Frankie Manning Honored: Lifetime Impact Award

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We are delighted to share this well-deserved honor from the Washington Center for Nursing, recognizing the many contributions that Ms. Frankie Manning has made to the profession, and to individual nurses. The award was announced in the Qtr 4 WCN Newsletter. Many who have participated in the “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” know Ms. Manning as a steady voice, adding her deep wisdom and insights to the discussions that we have shared in our “reckoning” sessions. She also contributed her story to the Reckoning with Racism in Nursing video project, available here.

Frankie T. Manning

This passage from the WCN Newsletter provides a powerful description of how we have all come to know and love Ms. Manning!

The heart of her impact is in how she shows up for nurses and the community every day. And in her unwavering commitment to service and her faith in people. It is in her dedication to the power of dialog and relationship building. It is in her openness and willingness for honest reflection and growth. It is in her voice, advocacy, and support for Black and African American nurses and all they contribute to nursing. It is in her passion for helping nurses and patients thrive while creating a better, more equitable healthcare system. And it is there in her pride as a nurse. Frankie Manning is one of a kind, and because of her, nursing is better. And for all that she does and has done, WCN is honored to award her with the Lifetime Impact Award.

WCN Newsletter