George Floyd's death tore open a long-festering wound and ignited collective moral outrage. People of all ages and races have come together, including many nurses and others in healthcare, to “take a knee” in unity against racism and the inequities it creates in our social and criminal justice systems. These efforts are well-aligned with the ethics that form our foundation for nursing practice. The Code of Ethics for Nurses states, “Nurses consider the needs and respect the values of each person in every professional relationship and setting; they provide leadership in the development and implementation of changes in public and health policies that support this duty.”1
It is time for reflection and difficult conversations. As a White nurse with many colleagues and friends of color, I have much to learn. Yes, I have attended cultural competency workshops and read the literature. But it was after a well-respected Black male physician colleague shared his experience of being stopped for a minor traffic infraction and thrown to the ground by police that I gained so much more insight into his lived experience as a Black male in our society.
I have heard White people proudly state that they are “color blind” to affirm their equal treatment of everyone. However, being “color blind” is not the end goal, nor is it totally possible. It is far better to see and value people for who they are within their cultural context. People of all races first must ask themselves, “Have I looked inside and accepted who I am and how I can change my beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors?” Cultural competency is often misinterpreted to mean treating people as you want to be treated. A broader term, cultural humility, also considers the beliefs, values, and needs of the other person.
An open mind and active, insightful conversation are crucial for fostering objectivity and genuine empathy to overcome prejudice and bias. Questions like, “What would you like me to know about you and your lived experiences?” or, “What elements in my culture do you find offensive that may be beyond my awareness?” might go far in bridging racial divides.
We are living in dynamic and challenging times that can ultimately enable our society to evolve into a nation of equality and justice. We must not slip back into the old status quo.
Until next time,
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAWM, FAAN