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The converging crises of COVID-19 and racist state violence in 2020 shifted public discourse about marginalization, public health, and racism in unprecedented ways. Nursing responded to the pandemic with heroic commitment and new politicization. But public engagement with systemic racism is forcing a reckoning in nursing. The profession has its own history of racism and of alliance with systems of state control with which to contend. In this article, we argue nursing must adopt an ethics of abolitionism to realize its goals for health and justice. Abolitionism theorizes that policing and prison systems, originating from systems of enslavement and colonial rule, continue to function as originally intended, causing racial oppression and violence. The harms of these systems will not be resolved through their reform but through creation of entirely new approaches to community support. Nursing as a collective can contribute to abolitionist projects through advocacy, practice, and research.


This work was originally published in Advances in Nursing Science and can be accessed at

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