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From the Editor: Development and Aging

Letter to the Editor

Banks-Wallace, JoAnne RN, PhD

Advances in Nursing Science: March 1998 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p vi-vii
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Dear Dr. Chinn;

I am writing in response to the editorial review of my manuscript. I would like to thank the reviewers for giving such careful attention to it. The majority of their comments were provocative and will assist me to further realize the significant influence of social position and life experiences on the interpretation of data and dissemination of findings.

I would like to bring to your attention two matters that caused me grave concern. First, one reviewer noted under section II "Concise, logical ordering of ideas; readability":

". . . often times I would have to read a quote two or three times to discern how it was tied to the author's overall statement. . . with the approval of the journal editor, I solicited a second read from a colleague who is African American and a nurse researcher. She likewise struggled with the presentation of the quotes."

The reviewer appears to have made an assumption that because her or his colleague is a woman of African descent she has some intrinsic understanding of all other women of African descent. The reviewer's actions (in conjunction with the colleague of African descent and the supervising editor), are indicative of an essentialist perspective of human experience and behavior. This perspective assumes that members within a particular social subgroup possess certain common characteristics, partake in the same life experiences, and have similar adaptive responses. Feminist theorists have been instrumental in expanding the dialogue about the influence of gender and class on every aspect of life. Thus, I am very distraught to be reminded, yet again, that the homogenization of experiences persists even within circles of feminist scholars.

Furthermore, I think careful consideration should be given to the unintended consequences of having a woman of African descent serve the role of "hatchet person." The reviewer channeled her or his negative comments through the personage of a nurse scholar of African descent. This made it possible for the reviewer to appear objective and concerned, but not responsible for the outcomes of the review process. I assume that the reviewer had some noble goal in mind when this option was chosen. However, the scholar of African descent was placed in a very precarious position. There is a long history within the United States of selecting a few "good" people of color to serve as gatekeepers and preservers of the dominant power structure. They usually have no power to change the system and are generally held in low esteem by the dominant society and distrusted within their social cultural groups. An outgrowth of this history is that regardless of outcomes, blind reviews by persons selected simply because of their assumed affinity to a particular group may breed mistrust and impede open communication. In addition, the imbalance of power within academe and secrecy inherent in blind reviews frequently leave scholars suspicious of potential allies and colleagues. Taken together, these factors may result in scholars who are people of color being further isolated or ostracized. None of these situations is conducive to the further development of a community of nurse scientists and scholars.

A second area of concern was the assumption made by two of the reviewers regarding priorities for themes to be included in the manuscript. One reviewer noted that it would be helpful to have information regarding "the participant's specific views on Caucasian women's roles in research" and "paradigms of Caucasian men." Another reviewer suggested that "perhaps having a woman nurse scholar of African descent and a woman nurse scholar who is not a woman of color . . . review the match between the point or theme" would be helpful. Together, these comments suggest that priority should be given to areas that traditionally have been the concerns of people of European descent. They also indicate that validation by the dominant culture is a prerequisite for the legitimization of studies by, for, and about people of color. Again, I am not sure of the intent of these comments. However, I believe the unintended negative consequences of maintaining these positions must be further examined by all scholars.

In summary, I believe the comments of the reviewers indicate the need for a frank and open discussion regarding the influence of social and cultural norms, philosophical perspectives, and power differentials on development and dissemination of manuscripts. In particular, examination of the review process, the selection of reviews for manuscripts, and the influence of the process on the development of nurse scholars appears warranted. Thank you for your careful consideration of the concerns addressed.

JoAnne Banks-Wallace, RN, PhD

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