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)

5 thoughts on “A White Nurse’s Response to the ANA Apology

  1. “As of this moment, I think I shall renew my membership for another year, trusting that this communication from me will make a difference.”
    after laying out every reason not to?
    the only language they understand is dues and magnet money – don’t be a sucker

    wondering if this comment gets through Peggy’s gate


    • well whaddya know?
      also too – “maybe this time will be different” is what people say about their toxic relationships so spot on for highlighting the importance of abuse as a tool in colonial nursing aka white woman nursing


  2. Hello from Ohio, Elizabeth. I certainly remember your contributions to GCNA and ONA. Our House of Delegates debates were one of the best learning experiences I ever had. I’m distressed by the need for ANA to dis-affiliate from ONA for bad behavior at ONA as it is presently operating.

    I now belong to OHRN, a group formed by former ONA leaders to offer a professional organization we hope will soon become the ANA Ohio Affiliate. I am a member of the OHRN Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee chaired by Dr. Jean Anthony who is University of Cincinnati Professor Emerita. We are, of course, reviewing and discussing the literature, me as a retired white nurse of privilege.

    Thank you for sharing your reaction to the ANA position statement on racism that you just posted on Nurse Manifest. Very thoughtful and well written. Dr. Peggy Chinn, who chaired my thesis committee at Wright State University, set her students on a path toward critical thinking and advocacy for justice. We’re not there, no where close. Keep speaking out. We need to learn how to constructively join the dialogue.

    I’ve forwarded your excellent thoughts to Dr. Anthony for use in our DEI Committee. We have to do what we can, whoever we are, whenever we can do it. Kudos to YOU.
    Best regards


  3. so this is weird – Elizabeth reached out to me and Patrick on Twitter via her protected account with clips from this piece, and we even exchanged via comments but now I can’t find her there (?)
    maybe I’m doing something wrong so if you have any guidance
    also this week I made a comment about nurses being racist, orgs especially, at the HPNA member forum and the org deleted it


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