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

Registration open for January – May 2023 “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing”

Every 3rd Saturday through May, 4-5:30 Eastern!

January 21
February 18
March 18
April 15
May 20

Register for all January-May gatherings here!

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 and register again!

All information and updates are posted on our “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” page.

Peace & Power: 9th Edition now published!

I am thrilled to announce the release of the 9th Edition of Peace and Power – now published by Cognella – a relatively young publisher focusing on excellence “rooted in passion, collaboration, and collective well-being” (https://cognella.com/company-culture/).

The book retains the essential elements that so many have come to appreciate and have used to shape action. The content, however, reflects current realities that have emerged from a much greater involvement in virtual meetings that arose from the necessities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another major feature of the book is a central focus on anti-racism action, content that was developed from the real-life activism of the “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” project.

The book is available on the Cognella website here as a paperback edition, and an electronic version. It will be available on Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook soon!

A Black Nurse’s Reaction to the ANA Apology

Re-posted from Nursology.net

Euro-American women who become involved in nursing and who adopt its values with respect to homogeneity and conflict avoidance must be prepared to accept the consequences of reproducing their own traditions and the means by which these traditions maintain racism in their profession and their society.BARBEE, 1993

On September 24, 2022, the Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing reconvened after a summer hiatus. The break was a time to refresh, recharge and reflect on where we have been and where we are going in our anti-racism efforts. Our first discussion focused on American Nurses Association’s Racial Reckoning Statement.

When I initially read the statement, I didn’t feel anything. Then I thought for a minute to understand why. I have been here before only to then experience disappointment. I will explain why I have issues with ANA’s Racial Reckoning.  

First, nurses of color cannot be asked to forgive. This is a major flaw that I see in their statement. And in my opinion, it is offensive to ask for forgiveness. I will not forgive, not now. Not without action. What I want is to see action to heal the harm, action to confront daily acts of harm still being heaped on people of color, action to speak openly about racism that persists, action to heed the voices of nurses of color, action to center the voices of nurses of color in creating a just and nurturing new reality for nurses of color.  When I see your actions, I will gradually come to trust that your intentions are real. Forgiveness will not build this trust. Only action will. 

The actions outlined in the Racial Reckoning statement are a good start. Now we need to see these actions begin to grow into reality.  The reason I feel strongly about this statement is because through the writings of Black historians and Black nursing scholars, such as Dr. Darlene Clark Hine, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Carnegie, and Dr. Evelyn Barbee. I learned how racism has always been a part of nursing history. 

Racism has existed in nursing since the development of institutionalized nursing programs (Carnegie, 1986; Hine, 1989). Although nursing care existed in Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, nursing programs denied admission to racialized people solely based on the color of their skin (Carnegie, 1986; Hine, 1989). 

The harm from racism in nursing runs deep; lost dreams, lost opportunities, trauma from doing the work without recognition, caring for patients in environments that were not safe. Nurses of color continue to work hard to demonstrate how they belong to all areas of nursing. For example, Filipino nurses were disproportionately assigned to care for the sickest COVID patients, relegated to night shifts, and subsequently suffered disproportionately from COVID, and many died (Nazareno and others, 2021).  A painful part of nursing history is when nurses of color have sought the support of professional nursing organizations, such as the ANA, and were rejected. Nurses of color were disappointed by lack of interest in the issues that impacted them (Barbee, 1993).

ANA needs to acknowledge this history and the harm that was caused. The historical beliefs about nurses of color not having the ability to be nurses, policies in place that created challenges for admission to nursing programs, the barriers that prevented nurses of color from having access to the resources for developmental and educational growth or safe working environments that are free of racism (Barbee, 1993; Nazareno and others, 2021; Spratlen, 2006). 

Everything about the ANA’s Racial Reckoning Statement is anonymous. There is no indication of who actually wrote any of this — the racial reckoning statement or the FAQs. Who from the ANA wrote the Racial Reckoning statement? Who wrote the questions and responses in the FAQs? The statement made frequent use of anonymous quotes.  Accountability requires agency. To demonstrate that one is ready for action, you cannot hide behind anonymity.

It is appropriate for the Apology to come from a “white voice” –  but the actions and the intentions moving forward need to reflect the wisdom and leadership of nurses of color. 

The FAQ’s are questions that white nurses would ask, but the FAQs require the voices of Nurses of Color. 

For nursing to become an anti-racist discipline, decolonization of racist structures is required. This begins by centering primarily on the knowledge generated by nurses of color. We who are Black, Indigenous, Latina/o, and other Nurses of Color, have drawn from our experiences to produce a significant and growing body of knowledge for the Discipline of Nursing. Although our work is underutilized, our literature provides guidance for decolonizing all areas of nursing, policy changes, nursing curriculum, nursing research, and nursing leadership (Barbee, 1994; Canty and others, 2022). 

Over the next weeks, months, year, nurses of color, allies and co-conspirators will continue to discuss the ANA Racial Reckoning and how we will move forward. 


American Nurses Association. (2022) Racial Reckoning Statement. (https://www.nursingworld.org/~4a00a2/globalassets/practiceandpolicy/workforce/racial-reckoning-statement.pdf)

ANA. (2022). Frequently Asked Questions about Racial Reckoning https://epicmsdev.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/racism-in-nursing/RacialReckoningStatement/frequently-asked-questions-about-racial-reckoning/ 

Barbee, E. L. (1993). Racism in U. S. Nursing. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 7(4), 346–362.

Barbee, E. L. (1994). A Black Feminist Approach to Nursing Research. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 16(5), 495-506.

Canty, L., Nyirati, C., Taylor, V., & Chinn, P. L. (2022). An Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing. AJN American Journal of Nursing, 122(2), 26–34. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000819768.01156.d6 

Carnegie, M. E. (1986). The path we tread : Blacks in nursing, 1854-1984. Lippincott.

Hine, D. C. (1989). Black women in white : racial conflict and cooperation in the nursing profession, 1890-1950. Indiana University Press.

Nazareno, J., Yoshioka, E., Adia, A. C., Restar, A., Operario, D., & Choy, C. C. (2021). From imperialism to inpatient care: Work differences of Filipino and White registered nurses in the United States and implications for COVID-19 through an intersectional lens. Gend Work Organ, 28(4), 1426-1446. doi:10.1111/gwao.12657

Spratlen, L.P. (2001). African American Registered Nurses in Seattle: The Struggle for Opportunity and Success. Peanut Butter Publishing.