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From the Editor: Development and Aging

Letter to the Editor: Reply

Chinn, Peggy L. RN, PhD, FAAN

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EDITOR'S RESPONSE

I would like to thank Dr Banks-Wallace for articulating these issues for the ANS audience. While the particular situation that she addresses is the ANS review process, I believe that the concerns she raises apply to many other types of review and evaluation processes, including grant reviews and faculty assessments of student work.

The points that Dr Banks-Wallace addresses that I feel are particularly worthy of our consideration are: (1) the cultural tendency to ascribe common characteristics to groups other than our own; (2) our willingness to assign a spokesperson from a minority group to speak on behalf of all others of their group, and (3) the use of the dominant culture's values and priorities as the norm for all other groups. These are difficult issues to address, but I believe that we can find ways to remedy these expressions of everyday, often unconscious or unintended prejudices.

The first step is to bring these matters to conscious awareness. Dr Banks-Wallace has provided a statement that can enhance our understanding of these dynamics and the serious consequences of our actions. It is everyone's responsibility to take her words to heart, to examine our own attitudes and practices, and to resolve to work toward change in our own practices.

The next step is to learn ways to change what we do and how we do it. I would like to offer some suggestions along this line. With regard to our tendencies to ascribe common characteristics to groups other than our own, one practice that can be cultivated in our diverse communities is to invite opinions and points of view from each individual, with individuals speaking their own perspective. In communities where our practice is to act based on a majority voice, we sustain the tendency to assume homogeneity when in fact even among the majority, and particularly among the minority, great diversity of perspective probably prevails. When we learn to pay attention to the rich diversity of perspective, we will acquire the means to integrate that understanding into our attitudes and actions toward other people.

Many feminist writers have addressed the dilemmas involved in asking one member of a minority group to represent their group. In "The Bridge Poem," Donna Kate Rushin speaks eloquently of how it feels to be asked to explain and translate her cultural experiences to others, urging us to find other connections to cultures we do not experience first hand. [1] (pxxi)

We can seek places and experiences that are not our common everyday experience. We can read the excellent writings that scholars of minority groups have written. We can listen with attentiveness and respect to the stories and perspectives that are offered in our everyday interactions with people who live in different cultural groups.

In academic circles, we have built in to almost every process the values of the dominant culture. The recent controversies and discussions in the United States about the role of Ebonics (Black American English dialects) in schooling for children brings this issue to stark reality. I do not think that we can resolve the conflicts inherent in contradictory value systems by passing laws and writing policies. Instead, I believe that we can pay attention to the many ways that we impose dominant values on others, and examine how to shift our preconceived ideas of what is right, good, or worthy to embrace the values of groups other than our own. This starts with discussions where we live and work to find our common ground, and to better understand our differences.

This issue of Advances in Nursing Science (20:3) focuses on "Development and Aging." I am presenting Dr Banks-Wallace's letter, and my response, as a challenge to the nursing profession to develop our communities with a conscious intent toward embracing the rich diversity of our members. This is a development process. It happens over time, with great effort, and in small steps. It is my hope that in this development process, we will age with grace and dignity, and gain the wisdom that we prefer to associate with advanced years and maturity.

Peggy L. Chinn, RN, PhD, FAAN

Editor

REFERENCES

1. Rushin DK. The Bridge Poem. In: Moraga C, Anzaldua G, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Watertown, Mass: Persephone Press, 1981.
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