Racism is an ugly, persistent reality in our country. Recent events have re-exposed existing polarities in our beliefs and values as well as our own bias and lack of self-awareness. How are we as nurses and believers to respond? What questions should we be asking our patients, communities, and colleagues? What questions should we be asking ourselves?
As nurses, we have been taught the impact of racism on the health of non-White populations. We know racism is a negative social determinant of health. The 2015 National Healthcare Disparities Report stated that White patients receive better quality of care than 36.7% of Hispanic patients, 41.1% of Black patients, 32.4% of American Indian/Alaska Native patients, and 20.3% of Asian and Pacific Islander patients (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2020, para. 10).
The Code of Ethics for Nurses calls us to have “respect for the inherent dignity, worth, unique attributes, and human rights of all individuals” (American Nurses Association, 2015, p. 17). However, unconscious or implicit bias impacts our decision-making in far greater ways than conscious prejudice and expresses itself over our conscious values (University of California, San Francisco, n.d.). This type of bias also is triggered during times of stress or as we cope with the complexity of our roles as nurses (University of California, San Francisco, n.d.).
The Pew Research Center highlighted significant differences in our views about racism and our relationships with individuals of other races. Although 58% of the people interviewed believed race relations in the United States were generally bad, Blacks (71%) were far more likely to see race relationships in a negative light than were Whites (56%) or Hispanics (60%) (Horowitz et al., 2019, para. 4). Differences were also reported in the way Blacks and Whites viewed their relationship with one other. Fifty-eight percent of Whites felt the two races got along well in contrast to 58% of Blacks who believed the two races did not get along well (Horowitz et al., 2019, para. 18). The age of the Black respondents also played a role in the opinions expressed about Black–White race relationships. Fifty-three percent of Blacks age 50 and older believed Blacks and Whites got along, whereas only 33% of Blacks under age 50 shared this same belief (Horowitz et al., 2019, para. 19).
These differences highlight the need for a deeper understanding among people of all races. Our realities are different, yet all are created imago Dei (in the image of God). As believers, we know the love of Jesus Christ to be transformative. It should never leave us the same.
Learning to love as Jesus loved carries a cost: to self, to our past, and to our families. The most dangerous prayer I ever prayed was for God to teach me what it meant to love others unconditionally. He continues to teach me through my daily missteps and failings. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated it this way, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
In this issue, Jones and Wynn address the stigma that oppresses people with mental illness, presenting a medium for conquering the negative stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination individuals experience. This is an area where nurses can promote needed change.
In the same way, nurses in their roles as educators, researchers, care providers, leaders, advocates, and policymakers are uniquely situated to listen and to foster conversations, building cultural competency that can improve the health and well-being of all people. The conversations won't be easy. Mistakes will be made. But it is time for each of us as nurses and especially as nurses of faith to listen and to begin to ask the tough questions, especially of ourselves. Be a part of the conversation.
American Nurses Association. (2015). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements
(2nd ed.). American Nurses Association.
Horowitz J. M., Brown A., Cox K. (2019, April 9). Race in America 2019: How Americans see the state of race relations
. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/04/09/how-americans-see-the-state-of-race-relations/
University of California, San Francisco. (n.d.). Unconscious bias