Reflections on “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing”


Lucinda Canty

This past Saturday, we concluded the 5-week series of discussions “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing.” There were 100 to 120 participants present for each discussion.  Lucinda Canty skillfully hosted each discussion, guided by the “Principles of Reckoning” that set the stage for us to hear the voices of nurses of color, and for white nurses to be still and listen.  I will be honest – even with my commitment to this process, there were moments when I felt the desire, arising from my deeply embedded whiteness, to speak!  But everyone who participated honored the commitment on which these discussions were based – and WOW – what a powerful experience!  Here are a few of the comments on the feedback that we received in response to the feedback stem: “What I appreciated the most” . . .

  • The vulnerability of those who spoke.
  • The honesty, raw emotion, and thoughtful respect
  • The opportunity to gain greater understanding of challenges I have not had to face
  • How this was an open discussion and made racism in the workplace not an uncommon thing to experience. The discussion and platform allowed a safe space for people to share their stories and experiences, while also bringing awareness to an important issue that happens in the workplace..
  • As a white woman, it is very important to listen to the experiences shared.
  • I appreciated hearing the stories, the struggle, and the successes that people brought to this circle.
  • Having had this space to listen to the stories of others, and reflection on my own history and goals moving forward
  • The vulnerability and courage of the speakers in sharing their experiences
  • growing awareness of what needs to change

We also asked participants to reflect on what made them uncomfortable:

  • The stories of BIPOC nurses experiencing racism in nursing at all levels are extremely important in understanding the violence, the disrespect, the emotions etc… they experience in our culture. SO VERY POWERFUL. I appreciate it all! Thank you… will keep working at this. Thank you for sharing all the stories.
  • I did not feel uncomfortable – I felt enriched and blessed
  • Just sad that racism is still so prevalent
  • For me it feels like trauma is revisited and it hurts. But it is also cathartic.
  • Talking to white nurses about my experiences
  • It was hard to hear the suffering of other black nurses and women of color.
  • Nothing made me uncomfortable; good to get it out and hear from others
  • It was hard to relive some of the traumas we’ve shared in the circle. So many brave women of color sharing really difficult situations they had been in.
  • Continued exploration of my own prior complicity
  • This session made me more aware about potential racism that can happen when I become a nurse and start working (as I am currently a student nurse). This discussion made me more conscious of people’s experiences and provides a take-away of what to look for (potential red flags and racism) in the workplace and how to possibly address them.
  • Knowing I could have done more
  • The reflection that I may think that I am more ‘woke’ than I really am.

For those of us who organized this series, we have felt the earth quake – we are forever changed by this experience!  And we know that many participants felt the same kind of change. We are sad that it has ended, but while realizing that we need to take a break, we are determined to take the next step forward. We know that white nurses need to enter into the discussion, so we anticipate that this will be a feature of whatever direction we take. We have encouraged all nurses, and particularly white nurses, to take a deep dive into the many resources available on our “Resources for Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” page.

We have connected with nurses of color who spoke during these discussions, inviting them to join in planning the next steps.  These discussions are open to anyone interested in participating, on October 24th  and October 31st from 4 to 5:30 Eastern.  If you are interested, please let us know! And follow this blog – we will post the next steps of this initiative here!

2 thoughts on “Reflections on “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing”

  1. This series was incredibly much needed and offered an opportunity for BIPOC nurses to speak their truths and for white nurses to listen to the pain and hurt caused by racism in nursing. I’d love to see this continue with healing and reconciliation as the foundation. Maybe before this to have BIPOC nurses talk about what gave them joy and resilience, especially for older nurses to share with younger nurses, balms that allowed them to carry on and persevere.

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