After a Texas nursing student’s Facebook post went viral, a nursing textbook is earning criticism for its outrageously racist description of African Americans. The student, Jazmine Lattimore, excerpted a portion of Journey Across the Life Span: Human Development and Health Promotion, by Elaine U. Polan RNBC MS PhD and Daphne R. Taylor RN MS on her Facebook page. Billed on Amazon as “what you need to effectively care for your patients in the ever-changing world of health care,” the book has garnered two out of five stars.
The text that the student quoted appears in a chapter which aims, among other things, to show “how culture is relevant to nursing practice.” Based on its description, the chapter sounds like a well-intentioned attempt to teach compassion and sensitivity. But what follows is a jamboree of some of the most pernicious racial stereotypes in existence.
The book attempts to talk about race and ethnicity from an anthropological perspective, but fails miserably. It conflates immigrants and their descendants who live in America with foreign nationals who live abroad. It summarizes communication styles, attitudes towards pregnancy, and family structures of six races in just a few paragraphs. I am baffled that the authors thought this was a good idea.
The section on African Americans goes on:
The African American group is made up of people who came to the United States from Africa as part of the slave trade and of immigrants with a similar history who came from the Caribbean. Each African American belongs to a common race and a specific cultural group. The primary language is English, but many speak Spanish, French, patois (Creole). A loud voice can be interpreted as either jest or anger. More emphasis is placed on nonverbal than verbal behavior. Direct eye contact in this culture can be considered a form of aggression.
What the fuck? The authors don’t just stereotype African Americans, though. Here’s how the book summarizes the communication styles of Native Americans, for example:
Native Americans communicate in moderate tones; talking loudly is considered rude. Direct eye contact is unacceptable even between friends. Touch is acceptable between friends and family. There is no touching between strangers.
And Asian Americans are defined as people coming from “different countries in the Pacific,” including China, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. The book seems to forget completely about India, a country of 1.3 billion which you’ve probably heard of, nestled in the Indian Ocean. But in this particular instance, I admit that I am actually okay with the erasure of my ethnic origins. From the section on Asian Americans:
Communicating is done in quiet tones because loudness is considered disrespectful. It is considered disrespectful to look elders directly in their eyes. Touch is acceptable only between individuals of the same sex. It is taboo to openly express emotions—whether happy or sad. Households are divided along gender lines that are clearly patriarchal. Extended families within one household are common. The elders are protected within the family unit. Children are very important and must demonstrate respect for the family.
Health is seen as the balance between ying[sic] and yang—good and evil. Good health is seen as a gift from the ancestors. Cleanliness also is seen as a way to prevent illness. Eastern medicine predominantly uses meditation, acupuncture, and herbs.
And here’s an excerpt from the section on Arab Americans:
The primary language of Arab Americans is Arabic, but most have some mastery of English. Arab Americans communicate at close proximity. They tend to talk in loud voices with frequent and intense eye contact. Touch is permitted only with people of the same gender. Cultural laws specify that women wear clothing to cover their bodies from their wrists to their ankles, and their heads and faces.
There is also a section on “European Americans,” by which I think the book just means white people. Here it is:
European Americans make up the largest cultural group in the United States. The predominant language is an English dialect, and any other language spoken represents the country of origin. Speech is usually loud, and eye contact is essential during communication but without staring. Touch is not an accepted method of communicating for most European Americans. Family life is equally matriarchal and patriarchal.
I regret to inform you that the section on Hispanic Americans is hidden from Amazon’s preview mode, so you will just have to imagine what reductive, racist, baffling things the authors have to say about that huge group of people that has an immense range of lifestyles, beliefs, and experiences.
Publisher F.A. Davis did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the meantime, if your school uses this racist textbook (or any other racist textbook), drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.