American Nurses Association issues apology for history of racism

‘We apologize for the named and the unaccounted-for harms’

The American Nurses Association (ANA) released a formal apology on July 12 “to begin a journey of racial reckoning.” The statement is part of an ongoing effort to reconcile with the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA), National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) and other minority nurse associations.

“Our intention with this statement is to publicly identify and acknowledge our past actions while addressing the harms that continue today,” the letter said. “The section on ANA Reckoning is not meant to be a complete listing of all ANA actions that have caused harm. Historical exclusions of and transgressions against Black nurses will be discussed in this document. This harm has undoubtedly extended to all nurses of color. In addition, there is much debate about labels and terms to identify racialized minorities. We have chosen to use the term “nurses of color” to reflect all nurses representing race and ethnic groups. It is our intention to be fully inclusive in the use of this language.”

The association noted that it is seeking forgiveness from the various minority nurse associations.

“In the end, it is our actions that will truly reflect the sincerity of this apology and serve as the underpinning for forgiveness,” the letter said. “For it is forgiveness that we seek — forgiveness from nurses of color, the nursing profession and the communities that have been harmed by our actions. We fervently hope that this statement, its subsequent work and the efforts of the Commission will contribute to healing — individual healing for nurses, reconciliation with the ethnic-minority nurse associations and healing of the profession. ANA wants this statement to reflect genuine reconciliation and acknowledgment and hopes that it is a step toward forgiveness. Ultimately, we seek to contribute to the healing of nursing.”

The letter revealed that from 1916 until 1964, ANA “purposefully, systemically and systematically excluded Black nurses.” The association also noted that “it was evident that exclusionary practices and a failure to represent all nurses remained” after 1964, though there were no longer any tangible rules preventing the membership of nurses of color.

Moving forward, ANA’s board of directors plans to “engage in direct reconciliation” with each of the the minority nurse associations, develop and implement diversity impact analysis in all of their policies and positions, initiate an oral history project to amplify the contributions of nurses of color and “continue to reckon with and apologize for past harms.”

The letter can be read in full at

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