Unintentional Racism

I’m coming to terms with the notion that I am, at heart, a cultural studies scholar. A year ago I wasn’t aware cultural studies existed, so it has taken a bit to wrap my head around the idea that there is a discipline encompassing what I do when I am not working on something related to nursing. I always felt a bit guilty, going through the blogs and Twitter to see what people were discussing. Now it’s part of my research!

Anyway, in my readings yesterday I came across this article: Here’s How You Can Be Unintentionally Racist – And How Allies Can Recover, written by Leah R. Kyaio. I am sharing the link because Kyaio describes an interaction with a child, and she then moves into a discussion of institutional racism in schools.

This is the bit that resonated:

 School rules related to group norms, white group norms, place a target directly on those who don’t follow those group norms.

As schools increase in their policy of zero tolerance, those who fall outside the norms — who are never taught to bridge the gap, never taught the rules of the culture of power or reject it because it conflicts with their culture or needs — fall deeply between the cracks as discipline becomes more and more severe.

This is the experience of our students of color.

This, friends and colleagues, is part of the problem with increasing diversity in nursing. Students who fail (for whatever reason) to meet our white, female norms are pressured into compliance or they are dropped. Many students of color may have difficulty meeting those norms on a personal or a psychological level. Thus, they are at risk from the moment they set foot into the classroom.

We have to fix this. We have to design interventions that teach the gatekeepers (nurses) how to interpret behavior and language in a culturally sensitive manner because it is not reasonable to continually insist that people of color adapt to us. That attitude has brought us here and here is a land of health disparities that shorten lives and decimate families.


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