Can you start by telling us when you came to CRS?
Sure, July 1968.
What were you doing beforehand?
Before that, I worked for an anti-poverty agency in New York, one of the first of the 26
"community corporations” as they were called, on the lower west side of New York. Before that,
I worked with street gangs.
Tell me a little bit about your poverty work.
Okay. I came in as the coordinator -- this is kind of a paraphrasing of the title, but I was the
coordinator of a block working group. The anti-poverty agency actually was an umbrella agency
that passed funds through to smaller neighborhood groups, but reserved a certain amount of
program activity unto itself. One of those activities was training and working with block workers,
who were people that were hired from the community to do various kinds of work, like welfare
rights organizing, and a lot of the elementary and secondary school education. The program put
people to work, bringing community people into the school system so that they could have their
voices heard about elementary school policy. So a lot of it was advocacy work. And then I later
became the deputy director of the community corporation.
That was a government agency?
Well, like most community corporations, the funding was a combination of federal funding
and city funding. Technically speaking, it was a city agency.
Tell me a little bit about the gang work.
Ah, the gang work. That was my first work coming out of college, out of undergrad school. I
actually worked for an organization called the New York City Youth Board, which was then the
seminal agency in the world, as far as the work being done with street gangs. It was built on the
old kind of case worker model, except that we were called street club workers. We didn’t like to
consider ourselves case workers – that was kind of an anathema to us.
I began by working with a gang on the upper west side of Manhattan, which is all a very chic area
now, actually. What you did in those days, and the basis for the New York City Youth Board,
was to prevent and mitigate gang fighting, because the gangs in those days were what were called
fighting gangs. Fighting gangs fought over turf, as opposed to drug gangs or more entrepreneurial
gangs. These were pretty much turf-oriented kinds of gangs. Most of the time was spent just sort
of hanging out on the street corner with these kids, and trying to create these kinds of changes,
individually or if you were lucky, with maybe four or five of them in your length of time there.
So much of your time was spent working and counseling with these young people. Occasionally,
you’d get yourself in the midst of a serious fight, but that didn’t happen too often. The whole
idea was to sort of change anti-social behavior into something that was more socially
Good. So then what got you to CRS?
There’s actually a story about that that I’ve told many times. An old friend of mine by the
name of Jim Norton, used to work for the Community Relations Service. Jim was a New Yorker
and a friend. In fact, Jim used to work for the New York City Youth Board, so we knew each
other in those days. Jim was always traveling someplace, and he would come home from time to
time. In those days, CRS did not have regional field offices; everyone worked out of Washington.
Some people were able to get back to their original homes periodically, so Jim would come home
and he would tell these incredible stories, stories that we always thought were apocryphal. He
would tell stories about being one step ahead of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, and about the
nation’s civil rights movement... incredibly exciting work. I said, "God, that sounds really
exciting!” and he said, "You know, you ought to come work for us." I said, "Well, I’ve got a
good job, and I enjoy what I’m doing, working here in this community." I’ll never forget this --
it was April of 1968, and I was running a meeting of parents in the community, strategizing about
how to get them into the policy-making arena of the local school district.
This was in New York?
This was in New York. This young black kid burst into the meeting breathlessly, to say that
Dr. Martin Luther King had just been shot and killed. Two months later I was working for the
Community Relations Service. It had just changed my life. That’s how I got started.
A fellow by the name of Victor Risso and I opened the New York
office. At this time, CRS was just beginning to spread out, because Congress and the white
House were becoming increasingly concerned about the series of riots that were taking place after
the death of Dr. King. They recognized the fact that service could not be provided much beyond
the fire-engine model working out of Washington D.C. The logic was that being closer to the
action with field offices would provide better access, and therefore better service. So, Vic and I
opened up the New York regional office, which was supposed to respond to disputes and
conflicts everywhere within what’s now designated as Region 1, consisting of all of the New
England region, Region 2, New York, New Jersey, and then also at that time Region 3, which
included Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands – they just sort of threw those last ones in as well, you know. Well, of course, the agency
actually expanded the regions later. We got more staff, and then it began to sort of actually go
from what had been five large geographical divisions, to ten regional offices, in order to conform
to the typical federal setup. So I started out as a conciliator in the New York office, working all
over, just doing various kinds of what was called conciliation. In those days, mediation had not
really taken hold in the community conflict arena. It was mainly called conciliation work. The
truth of the matter is that it really was a useful distinction, because there really wasn’t much in
the way of formal mediation, per se, taking place in the early days, since much of CRS was still
in a reactive, crisis-response mode. We flew into all sorts of places, literally or metaphorically,
laid hands on people, dealt with an immediate conflict situation and then flew out. The economy
would not allow for much more than that. In its earliest configurations, CRS had 50 people.
Then, as the regions began to grow, I went from being the Conciliation Specialist to the Deputy
Regional Director, and then I became the Acting Regional Director. So I stayed at the New York
office from ‘68 until ‘79. Then the fellow who was the deputy director of CRS at the time
asked me if I would come to Washington to be the Associate Director for Field Coordination, and
so I did. From ‘79 until 1986 when Gill Pompa died, I was Associate Director for Field
Coordination. When Gill died, the Attorney General asked me to take on the position of the
Acting Director of CRS, which is where I remained until September of 1988. When it became
clear that I was not going to get the official appointment as the Director of CRS, I decided to
segue. So I left CRS and joined, as kind of a government transfer, the Administrative Conference
of the United States (ACUS) which is no longer in existence.
ACUS was, as you know, a relatively small, arcane federal agency involved in
administrative disputes. They tried to determine how to make administrative disputes less
litigious and less costly. ACUS became interested in the Conflict Research field as a mechanism
for doing this, and so I came over as Distinguished Visiting Fellow, to bring a perspective from
the community into what was largely legal and administrative disputes. I found out that the
transition could work. There were lots of things that I could apply. So here I was, coming from a
community conflict-resolution agency, into an agency that was dominated primarily by lawyers
looking at administrative disputes, and I had a great time. I learned how to do interesting legal
research, trained administrative law judges and staff of federal agencies, and at the time was also
involved in the very beginnings of the Regulatory Negotiation process. I also helped to write the
first 1990 Omnibus Dispute Resolution Act. While this was happening, I was also doing these
kinds of casual little moonlightings at this new program, then called the Center of Conflict
Analysis and Resolution. It had just started at George Mason University, and the clinical part of it
was just getting started by my old colleague and friend Jim Laue, who used to be at the
Community Relations Service. So, it was a very incestuous network of people involved at this
time. I found that I enjoyed teaching, and that I had something to offer. Students seemed to
resonate with me as I did with them. In 1990, I was 50 years old, and serendipity being what it is,
I took an opportunity to take an early retirement. At the same time, the then Institute of Conflict
Analysis and Resolution offered me a position on the clinical faculty, and I made that transition.
That’s where I’ve been ever since.
Now that I gave my age away (laughter).
You don’t have too many years on me! We corresponded by e-mail and you mentioned that
you didn’t remember many of the details of your CRS work, so I suggested that we start talking
about the more general stuff, because that’s the kind of thing that we really haven’t discussed
with too many other people. And then if we get done with that and there’s time to do some
specific cases, let’s do it, but let me say to the extent that you can illustrate the theory with case
examples, all the better. So, certainly bring specific ideas in where appropriate.
The first thing that I’m really interested in talking about is perhaps
what I see as the key theoretical question that got us interested in this project. And that is that
we’ve been quite influenced by the theory development that was going on here at George
Mason and the whole human needs approach. Human needs theory suggests that conflicts about
human needs, such as identity, cannot and should not be mediated because they’re needs-based;
they’re not interests-based. However, CRS has been mediating racial conflicts (which are one
kind of identity conflict) for years. So I was curious to have you reflect on that, and tell me what
you think is different about what CRS does, and how it reflects on human needs theory.
Okay. Why don’t we start, Heidi, if I may, from a theoretical perspective, and then I’ll see
if I can hone it into CRS. Actually, this is in an article I wrote for the book, Conflict Resolution:
Theory and Practice. I’ve got a chapter in there. In that chapter, what I do is to take what was
originally Jim Laue's theory, which is this notion that there is a hierarchy of conflict responses,
and that the hierarchy begins with the notion that people approach a conflict from a positional
standpoint. We all know this from Fisher and Ury. They tell us that their big breakthrough was
teaching people to identify their interests, not just their positions. And that’s where they
stopped. But this is insufficient when it comes down to dealing with social conflicts that involve
very complex social issues and values that lie beneath the interests. Then, arguably, in a much
more theoretical way, you could even say there are basic human needs. And so these are
non-rational. The first two layers are affective and cognitive; the latter two layers are
non-rational layers. People can make rational decisions on both positions and interests; they can't
do that on values and needs. But often these conflicts were approached, at least initially, with an
interest-based approach, which is why intervention often was not successful. Not that the CRS
people were doing it that way necessarily, but the concept of approaching these disputes was
generally based on interests. So even before the intervention took place, at the point of
negotiation, you would have a situation where the parties were focusing, unsuccessfully, on
In one case that I was involved in on an Indian reservation in upstate New York, there
was a problem because the Indians claimed they actually owned the entire nearby town, and
therefore everything in it. This claim was, as you can imagine, contested by the townspeople and
the officials, who were mainly white. There was a series of conflicts that flowed from that initial
causal factor there. They involved disputes over services and police response (i.e. did the police
have the right to respond to a conflict on the reservation?) Then there was further factioning
within the tribe itself.
In the first mediation session that I was involved in, the discourse was such that the white
townspeople were trying to approach the issues -- and I don’t remember literally how the issues
were broken down -- but they were trying to approach the issues from a very rational,
interest-based level. I mean, they’d start out oppositionally, but quickly would try to identify --
at least from their point of view -- what their interests were. The tribespeople in the negotiations
were responding by telling stories. They would tell stories about the seven-nation confederation,
and about the fact that there was a great law that was the basis for the United States Constitution,
which was something that most of the whites did not know. So you had, in fact, a discourse that
was not meeting and not connecting. One group was speaking from an interests-based standpoint;
while another group was speaking from a values-based standpoint.
My colleague and I quickly recognized that if it continued this way, this was going to
break up and it was not going to be successful. So we stopped it and held separate caucuses. I sat
down with the white negotiating team, and I said, "Let me tell you what I hear them saying.
They're saying that you’re getting very impatient with the storytelling, that you think it’s a
waste of time, but that they have to tell their stories, because their storytelling is a part of them.
You have lots of other things around which to build your identity. Look at their reservation."
Their reservation was the size of the parking lot area outside. Theirs wasn’t a reservation in any
kind of classic sense that we think of reservations. Impoverished, high unemployment -- this was
before the gambling casino came in. "So where do they draw their identity from? From their
history. So if you want this to be a successful negotiation, then you need to actually hear this.” So
Now, this was a kind of cultural interpretation role that a third-party plays between a
values-based level of discourse, and an interests-based level of discourse. However, having said
that, the argument that I make is that ultimately, at some point, people have to come to a point of
negotiations at an interests-based level. I mean, you can’t have a value-based outcome -- what
would that look like? Any outcome, in any dispute, even if it is values-based or human
needs-based, is manifested in some way through an interests-based outcome. People have to have
a construct for this. So ultimately, at some point, where I differ with the theorists in the field who
say that you cannot use mediation in identity conflicts, is that at some point you necessarily do.
You just may not be able to use it at the very beginning. At the beginning, you start out with a
values-based perspective, because it is non-rational. At some point, in the problem-solving
transition, you get to the point of an interests-based mediation or a classic form of an
interests-based negotiation. That’s the distinction I would make.
Now, I think at CRS, there wasn’t that theoretical knowledge at that particular point in
time. CRS was hobbled, in a sense, by two things: One was, it was part of the Department of
Justice, at a time when the Department of Justice was looked at in a very, very suspect way. So
CRS people tried to do everything possible to divorce themselves from the Department of
Justice, except when they actually had to make an entry. Sometimes, it was valuable to associate
yourself with the Justice Department when you wanted to get your foot in the door. Then the
trick was, once you got your foot in the door, to sort of divest yourself of that association –
"Now that we’ve done this, here’s who we REALLY are...”
The question is whether or not CRS was really doing
mediation. So now we get into the slipperiness of terminology. I would say that CRS was not
really doing mediation. If you associate mediation with the comparatively narrow construct of a
table-based format, with a formal agenda, there was some of that. In fact, CRS became heavily
involved in some formal mediations and was very successful at that. But the bulk of the work, I
would argue, was more conciliation than it was mediation. Therefore, I think the argument that
CRS was successful -- I would sort of have to reframe that to say that if CRS was successful,
they weren’t really doing that kind of formal mediation. The reason why I think that’s
important, is that it meant that CRS did not have to abandon positions of advocacy. So if I were
to go into a community on an issue of police use of excessive force, as an African American, the
moment the police chief meets me, how can I portray myself as being neutral? He knows that
I’m not neutral. Am I neutral about the issue of police use of excessive force, directed largely
against minorities? Of course not.
However, there’s a difference between neutrality and
impartiality. If you think about neutrality as being neutral about issues, well then arguably I
would say that many CRS people, myself included, were not neutral about the issues. But what
was more important and more relevant was impartiality, a sense of equidistance between parties.
Now what was more important to that proverbial police chief, or whomever was the power elite
in that particular community, was not your neutrality. They were smart enough to know that you
weren’t going to be neutral. They were more concerned with questions like, "Can you help us?
Can you actually play a role and get us out of this messy situation we’ve found ourselves
involved in, and can you be impartial enough to be able to do that?” So that meant when the
representatives of the negotiators on the low-power minority side began to screw up, that you
would have the courage to tell them, "Listen, you’re not really negotiating in good faith. If you
really want to get something out of this issue, then you need to sort of change your pattern of
negotiation.” That’s the essence of impartiality in my mind.
Explain a little bit more about the difference between
conciliation and normal mediation. Linked to that, you implied, I thought, that a mediator must
be neutral but a conciliator doesn’t need to be?
Well, sort of. The old CRS training manual, which you should take a look at, which I’ve
got up here, draws a distinction between conciliation and mediation. If I can remember, just to
sort of paraphrase, conciliation was thought of as being a more informal, more reactive response
where there was not necessarily a formal agenda, and where the particular steps that one goes
through in the mediation process would not necessarily be there. In other words, it wouldn’t be
a formal convening. There may not be a bill of particulars, there may not be a kind of recitation
of the mediation process (who you had a caucus with, for how long, expectations and so forth),
and probably in a conciliation, not a written formal agreement. There may or may not be any kind
of self-enforcing mechanism as a part of it, whereas mediation would have a much more formal
kind of construct.
So in my sense, the comparative informality of conciliation, from that definitional
perspective, meant that the intervener could be a little bit more informal, could have the latitude
to advocate for one side or one idea in ways that you couldn’t do in a more formal mediation
because expectations of behavior of the third party would be different. So in the formal
mediation, there was an expectation. These are all generalities – there are huge variations on both
themes. Some people have taken mediation nowadays much more broadly. I think mediation
has a much more generous interpretation than it may have had in the early days of the conflict
resolution business, in the professional part of the field. Formal mediation restricted the behavior,
not only of the parties, but also of the third party as well. So there were expectations about your
behavior -- self-enforced expectations, not only expectations by the parties, but more a kind of
built-in ethos about how one behaves ethically as a mediator, which is much more constraining in
What part of that was there for conciliation?
Less of it. I mean, you couldn’t do anything you wanted. You
couldn’t just go into communities and become a sheer advocate. There were examples of CRS
people who did some egregious things, because they were not able to draw that fine line. It
certainly wasn’t a bright line, between a kind of allowable advocacy and impartiality.
Allowable advocacy was useful in reinforcing a voice from a low-power minority community,
because you had certain legitimacy: You weren’t from that town, you represented a very
auspicious federal agency, and you were, in fact, an authority whether you cared to acknowledge
it or not. What that did was to make your advocacy comparatively more acceptable, in that sense.
Whereas I think that in a more formal mediation, the construct of mediation would sort of
mitigate your ability to be able to do that.
On the other hand, CRS people, many of them being minorities themselves, came in with
various degrees of arrested advocacy development on their own part. So they were hugely
frustrated. They would get out into the field, and they would do things like, and these are true
examples: One fellow, in an open-air meeting, made several pronouncements about resources he
was going to be able to bring to this particular community. In effect, he called the establishment
everything short of racist pigs. Now what made him think that wasn’t going to get reported
back? Well, once that happened he was finished. And he actually did no service to that particular
community. His actions were self-defeating. Because it became very clear, not only in that
instance but actually in other instances as well, that even the minority community needed the
CRS person to be someone who could articulate their concerns in forums. Not only to create a
forum for them to be able to do that, which they were not successful in doing themselves, but at
key points be able to refine that articulation to the establishment’s side. But to be able to do
that, you had to be accepted by the so-called establishment’s side, so if you were no longer
accepted by them, you simply destroyed your purpose for the minority community as well.
So how do you deal with the notion
that -- again, this is another thing taken out of the literature -- that in order to be successful in
mediation, the parties have to be of relatively equal power. So what’s commonly done is
mediators will work to empower the low-power group, and I’m hearing you say that you do that
to a degree, but that can then cause problems with the other side.
Well, it happens in the very beginning. Typically the way that happens in CRS and most
other kinds of mediation where there’s this huge dis-equilibrium of power – and the same thing
can happen in organizations, for example – is that you do your power-balancing in the beginning
of the process. Let’s sort of walk through a typical process: you come into a community, you
meet with the leadership in the community, then you meet with the so-called establishment side,
the local officials, the business people, and the first thing they say to you is, "So who have you
met with on the community side?” and so you say, "Well, I’ve met with so and so." They say,
"Ah. A, B, and C is fine, but D and E.....those guys or those people -- known troublemakers,
can’t have them involved in the process.” So right from the very beginning, there’s an attempt,
even before you’ve gotten into the formal sessions, to discredit people who, in fact, could be the
people who could redress the balance of power in a setting, because they know they don’t want
those people there. They don’t want the balance of power. So I think the job of the conciliator
or the intervener, just to think of a more neutral term, speaking of neutrality, is to convince the
powers-that-be that if they really want this to be a successful outcome, without defining what
success is at this point -- because you don’t want to do that -- then they need to be here. "You
need to allow us to do our work, to make sure that the discussions stay on an even keel. We
can’t promise you that there won’t be some explosions from time to time, but you know,
you’re going to have to be prepared to deal with some of this if it happens." So, there was that
aspect of it, right from the very beginning.
And then, running throughout most interventions, you could say that at the beginning, but
there would be these kinds of recidivist fall-backs to the same kind of attempt to slowly
disempower people that they didn’t want to be at the table. Either in this particular forum, or
others. Something that we don’t give enough credit to in general, is that parties in disputes or
conflicts are pretty sophisticated. We think they look only at these particular issues, but in many
cases, people in communities are thinking about, "What are the implications of this as an
outcome for future relationships?” And read into that, "future power relationships.” So if
they’re successful in this issue, we know that coming up next year there’ll be a bond issue
about such-and-such. So they’re looking way down the line, in some cases much further than
the mediator is. They’re looking at externalities that the mediator is not even seeing. So I think
that the mediator then has to be able to constantly work to be able to do that.
There are several techniques that the mediator, or the intervener, has with which to
empower the low-power party. I think that the idea that CRS came in – if not explicitly, then
certainly implicitly – to redress the power was certainly known by everyone. But the very fact
that parties were being brought to the table, metaphorically and literally, was in fact a kind of
equalizing of the power. Jim Laue had an expression, as a tap-dance around this issue of
advocacy, by saying that he was "an advocate for the process”, remember that? Well, if you strip
away the veneer, you see what he’s really saying. He’s an advocate for social change. If the
process is going to bring about social change, then there’s the connection.....
How did this play with the white communities? Did it generally work?
It depended. It really depended. Then again, in the social science field there’s a tendency to
sort of demonize white communities. You know, "They’re all one thing or the other”. Well, the
truth of the matter is that so-called white communities are fairly diverse in and of themselves. So
the fact that you have a white leadership in a community, probably Republican, is supposed to
mean, in the popular conception, that these are people who adhere to all the kinds of things that
are an anathema to your perspective. You know, they’re right-wing people, they’re
conservatives, they’re against affirmative action, so you just name a litany of things and that’s
where they are. Well, if you got into these communities, what you began to discover was that
when people live their lives in these communities, they articulate a different kind of perspective.
It becomes a matter of, "We have to get through this particular situation.” So in some instances,
you find some white leadership adhering to that kind of popular line, but on the other hand, you
also find whites who say, "You know, we know this change is coming. It’s going to be
inevitable; we have face up to this. We may not like it, but our children are going to grow up in
this town, and we need to find a way of dealing with it.” It didn’t necessarily mean that they
were ready to give away the proverbial shop; it’s just that these realizations and recognitions
were there, and a good intervener would find a way to capitalize on that.
Good. Going back to another theoretical mediation model, it’s
been asserted that most of what mediators do here in the States is what’s called the North
Oh, God. Drives me crazy.....
What is the North American model? I mean, so what version of the North American
Well, the model that's based on Fisher and Ury, Chris Moore – standard interest-based
Oh, I see, that’s the classic North American model. Well, I have a couple of perspectives
about this. First of all, there’s very little research about what model works in what kind of
dispute. It’s mainly anecdotal, heuristic kinds of perspectives. Is it true that the so-called North
American model does not work in some cultural settings? Yes, it is true. But, what I think people
are ignoring in the midst of the popularization of this notion, is the issue of class as an
intervening variable. What they assume, is that any group – except for the North American group
– for whom the model works, is necessarily some kind of romanticized culture......it’s like,
people running around in the forest someplace, anyone who has a traditional culture. It would be
interesting to speculate as to how that got generated and what people think of traditional cultures
and where that comes from, but maybe we won’t go there (laughter).
But the fact of the matter is, class is a much more dominant intervening variable than
traditional culture is. The work we were doing in Rwanda -- and just transpose Rwanda into even
domestic settings and I’ll do that in a moment -- so we were doing a project in Rwanda with
Viskias Asetas and I, and Larissa Fast, the doctoral student who was working with us. We had
this week-long skills activity that we were doing in Kigali, and the question was: "Should we do
some basic mediation training?” We said, "Oh, we can’t do mediation training, because we all
know what’s said about doing this kind of training with traditional cultural groups. On the other
hand, this could be important, because they’re going to need to know how to do this in some
form....” We agonized over this for days, right up until the night before. We had an alternative
agenda, if we decided not to do it. We said, "No, it’s a skill, we think it’s worthwhile learning,
and let’s do it,” so we began the session by saying, "We’re going to do some mediation skills
training.” We gave a description of mediation, and said, "this may not fit exactly with your
culture, but tell us how you resolve disputes in your culture,” and got some information about
that. We looked for parallels, there weren’t any, and so we said, "Here’s what the mediation
process is like.” We did a presentation on the mediation process, and then we did some
simulations and some role-plays. Well, they got it. The reason why they got it is because the
Rwandan leaders were all middle-class people -- college-educated, middle-class people. Could
we have done this back in the bushes? Absolutely not. So one has to look at class as a much more
dominant variable than traditional culture.
I have a good story about that here in the United States. It wasn’t one that CRS was
involved in as far as I know, but back in the mid-‘70s at the height of the school desegregation
policies -- when the federal courts were issuing school desegregation orders, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta was being looked at and there was an order for the Atlanta schools to desegregate. Now,
the history of relationships between blacks and whites in Atlanta was such that the Atlanta
NAACP was incredibly sophisticated, probably the most sophisticated branch of the NAACP in
the country. At that time, Atlanta had more black middle-class people -- possibly with the
exception of Detroit -- than anywhere else in the country. The Atlanta NAACP decided that
bussing should not be the defining issue in the negotiations. First of all, in most bussing
situations, it was supposed to be two-way bussing, but it was really a one-way kind of bussing.
So it meant that black schools were the ones being primarily closed, so that black kids were
being bussed at all kinds of hours of the morning to white schools, only to be re-tracked once
they got to those schools. What the NAACP recognized, was that in the black communities, not
only was there fairly decent education going on -- they may have been under-resourced, but they
were doing well with what they had -- but there some powerful icons that had been built up in
those communities by those schools. Somebody’s father and grandfather had gone to those
schools, had been valedictorians in those schools, had run track, and so the sense of identity that
was taken for granted in white communities was under threat of being destroyed in these black
communities. So the Atlanta NAACP decided that bussing wasn’t the issue -- the more
important thing for them was superintendents, school principles, and resources. "And if you give
us that, we’ll educate our own children, thank you very much.” The national NAACP got wind
of this, and threatened to take away the charter of the Atlanta NAACP, until they began to think
about it: do you really take away the charter of the Atlanta NAACP? I don’t think you really do
that. It was an interesting juxtaposition of conflict resolution values and approaches that we used
-- and the Atlanta NAACP had already gotten to a point where they were looking at this much
more from an interest-based perspective. I mean there were values there, but by now they were
quite prepared to deal with this on an interest-based kind of mediation. So I think we, in the field,
need to look at that a lot more carefully.
This isn’t really relevant to this interview, but I’m curious: Did the judge let that happen?
Interesting. So, let’s go back to the CRS arena now: There’s
plenty of times where the white power structure is middle-class, and the minority community
presumably isn’t. What do you do then, in terms of process?
Well, it isn’t clear to me how that necessarily changes the process.
In terms of what model you use, you said that class really matters....
Yeah, well I think that class matters from the standpoint of conceptualization of process. It
may mean that you have to use some kind of a hybrid in a sense, or -- I talked about this a few
moments ago, but this was a prison mediation I did many years ago in Monroe prison, which
was, and still is, a medium-security prison right outside of Seattle. Conflict over minority inmates
feeling that they weren’t getting their fair share of resources in comparison to white inmates
who had done the same crime, and were serving the same kind of sentences. There were a couple
of riots there. So, my recognition was that we were dealing with a very sophisticated warden --
white warden -- and his staff, who had been to the table in various kinds of fora and were used to
the patterns of negotiation. And an inmate community, mainly inmates of color, who had not had
that experience. So what I did was, I said to him, "We can’t go into mediation with this kind of
imbalance. Just my few questions and meeting with the inmates’ side tells me that they know
very little about negotiations, and I think if you’re really interested in this being successful,
you’ll let me do at least a day of negotiations skills training with them first,” which is what I
did. So one way that you can do this is to create a distinction in the process at the beginning, by
being very transparent on what needs to be done, and with the white side say, "Look, if you’re
concerned that I’m going to be involved in some sort of sedition-like sort of behavior, or that
I’m going to be instructing them in terms of what to do, that’ll become clear enough in the
actual process, and you can always end it if you don’t care for it.” So that’s one way of dealing
with it, to sort of recognize the disparities and address them up-front, which is what I would
prefer to do, rather than to simply go into it, then figure out once you’re into it how you’re
going to redress the balance.
Okay. How much direction do you give to minority
communities, or how much assistance would you give them in terms of identifying their issues,
prioritizing their issues for them?
In caucus, the risk is you get into more of an evaluative procedure with the minority side,
comparatively less so with the white side. The risk is that the evaluation will become known in
the joint sessions and then there you are, blown out of the water. Again, my experience – I
don’t know what other CRS people have done, but my own experience then, and still is – is to
be very transparent about this and say, in effect, to both sides, "Now I sense that there’s a
need....” Particularly what happens is that there’s a frustration on the part of the
establishment’s side in the process, and it allows you to say, "What I think is happening here is
that the minority side doesn’t really have a good sense as to how to organize the issues. I think I
need to spend some time with them to be able to do that. Would you let me do that?” So when
you’re meeting with the minority side in caucuses, it’s much more than an evaluative
procedure. I mean, think about this: "What are the consequences of taking this action now?”
Now eventually, that gets evened-out, my sense is, by doing it jointly so as you get closer to the
actual agreement. Then you’re sitting there with both sides and you’re doing much more of an
evaluative procedure toward the end than you were in the beginning, because people trust you. I
think that I have much more comfort -- by the way, it doesn’t matter if it’s mediation; I could
be doing a problem-solving workshop -- as a facilitator starting out in a much more
clearly-defined position of neutrality -- neutral in the sense of being neutral and non-evaluative,
and then becoming increasingly so as trust is built up between the parties and as trust is built up
with me. So by the time we get to the point of people getting ready to sign off on an agreement of
some sort, you’re fully-prepared then to say, "Well first of all, let me tell you my own
experience,” and I’ll go into some experience, and I’ll say, "Let me give you a perspective
about this from another point of view.......you can do this, but here’s another possibility......here
are some resources you can look at if you want to go beyond me, in a sense....”
But you wouldn’t do that up-front in caucus?
I wouldn’t in the very beginning, because I think that the danger is, you’re taking over the
negotiation for one side, and then when you come back into the joint session, that side is looking
at you saying, "Well, your turn!” (Laughter)
Okay. Do you think that what you do as a civil rights mediator is different qualitatively than
other types of mediation, or would you use the same processes and strategies for other types?
Yes, and I feel the issue is not civil rights. It’s issues of social injustice, social justice
concerns; it could be civil rights, it could be other issues. So, I’ve used similar techniques where
I’ve done an intervention in an organization, and the women in the organization were concerned
about their role. So it was the same kind of dominance/power/suppression of voices, very similar
situations. The women in the organization were concerned that the only difference I found in
some cases, was that if the women in the organization were of sufficiently high rank, the
ambiguity about their positions -- "Should we be more vocal, or just play the game? We’ve
gotten this far, we can just tough it out.....” You have to figure out, how do you help them in that
sense? Anyway, that’s another story.
Do you run into that sort of thing in race relations too, though?
Somewhat. Somewhat. If you’ve got -- because again, we’re not dealing with monolithic
communities, so you’ve got black communities that have all kinds of voices in them. So it could
be an issue of police use of excessive force, but -- who is it, Penelope Cannard, says that
communities have histories of disputes, and you have to look at what has happened in that
community over time. I mean, we’re talking about in most communities, except in hugely large
cities -- and even there, sometimes -- you pretty much have the same actors coming to the table
time and time again over the same issues, and these things have become incredibly personalized.
So, people in a contemporary dispute are looking back to the past and looking forward to the
future, at the same time that they’re involved in this particular dispute. And so you begin to
recognize that this is a pattern of disputing that’s been happening, and people have stakes. So,
you’ve got somebody who is the head of the Urban League, or is head of the NAACP, who has,
whether or not they feel they have been treated fairly, had more "success” coming to the table
with the establishment than the in-the-streets leadership figures have had. So, now you’re
looking at a situation where you’re involved in two sets of negotiations. While this negotiation
is going on, you’ve got this side-bar thing happening where, in the African American
component or whoever the minority component of the community may be, this kind of factioning
is taking place there, and that has to be attended to, and what you’ll find happening is that those
leaders who’ve had some relative success negotiating in the past are afraid to lose what
they’ve had. And when you go into these relatively small communities, I mean these are
communities where people have lived their lives and they’re going to die there. So it’s not like
they’re going to say, "Well, I’m going to take some risks because next year, I’m going to
move to Chicago.” It just doesn’t work that way. So your internal advocacy and value
inclination to look snootily at those people that say they’re selling out -- you’re going to need
to think about how they live their lives in that community, and put yourself momentarily into the
lives of the people living in a community while you luxuriously come in from the outside. So
yes, I think that some of those same issues that women who are in relatively high positions in
organizations but who are still being discriminated against find themselves in, are analogous, to a
certain extent, to middle-class minorities who are in certain situations in communities.
As a CRS intermediary, did you ever or commonly get involved
in mediating between different groups in the minority community?
Happens all the time. I think that it was rare, but as I said, minority communities are not
monolithic. I’m trying to remember a good example of that. Well, in Brooklyn, New York, this
was in the ‘70s, before the -- actually, it was in the ‘80s, before the -- no, I have to get this
straight now. I left New York in ‘79, so the first time it happened was in the late ‘70s. There
were problems in Crown Heights even before the 1991 riots there. Again, it was a situation
where there were tensions between Hasidic Jews and the black community, and what you would
have is, in some instances, more middle-class blacks who lived in the community wanting to take
one negotiated stance, and that was being complicated by more militant groups of people coming
in from the outside, who actually weren’t in that community but felt they had a role to play,
because in these situations, more militant black leadership "shopped” for disputes, shopped for
conflicts to be involved in. It’s kind of like a – it’s a community version of the garbage can
What’s the garbage can theory?
It’s an organizational theory that, in effect, says that in organizations, there are disputes and
conflicts that are habituated to that organization and that continue to get dealt with and
resurrected by people. What happens is, these disputes and conflicts are never fully resolved.
It’s that people own them, and they will bring different versions of them to whatever the
situation is in the organization. They’ll bring their version of it, and it happens here, too. It’s
really interesting, I think, in communities, you get the same thing; you have people who -- I guess
you could say more disparagingly, are your professional rabble-rousers -- but I think there are
people in communities who look for these kinds of disputes and conflicts. Anyway, you often
times find yourself having to negotiate between more militant people who want one kind of
outcome and people who are themselves in the community, maybe from a different class-level or
maybe just not as militant, trying to determine if they need a different kind of outcome. It’s
spending lots of time mediating between those groups.
Success is one thing. If you’re
looking at it from the standpoint of a proactive or more proactive response, where you’re using
a more longitudinal form of conciliation or perhaps even mediation, the success is defined
differently. Let me give you an example -- this is kind of a composite example, and I’ve used
this often-times in talks. So you have Amarillo, Texas....CRS gets -- this is in the old days, but
CRS gets what was called an "alert” that there was a conflict between Mexican Americans and
police outside a high school in Amarillo, Texas; there were some injuries, some arrests, but no
deaths. CRS gets called in to intervene. In the old, fire-fighting conciliation days, what CRS
would do is to try to work out some kind of an agreement -- a contingency-based agreement
between law enforcement and the demonstration leaders or community leaders over the
demonstration. So, CRS would say, "Okay, police department, would you accept self-enforcing
marshals?” and they go, "Sure, okay.” "Okay, you don’t want demonstrations to take place right
on the school grounds; could you agree to demonstrate three blocks away?” If you get a response
of consent, then you leave. If you got that agreement, that was a successful outcome. Then you
find out that tensions resumed a short time later. You go back in, and you say, "What happened?
We thought we worked out an agreement.” Well, that wasn’t the issue. What was the issue?
The reason why they were demonstrating? It’s because a school principle expelled two Latino
students for speaking Spanish on school grounds, which up until -- in some states, in some
locales – the mid ‘80s, you couldn’t do. It was against the law to speak Spanish on school
grounds. So, you go back in and you discover, well, the cause of the conflict was the expelling of
these two Latino students, so now this is a different kind of issue. So is success simply reaching
an agreement on how people can demonstrate? No, it’s no longer sufficient as a measurement of
success. So now success looks like something else. So success looks like, maybe getting the two
students readmitted. Could you stop there? You could, but let’s dig a little deeper. If you were
doing this on a fuller basis of mediation -- on a much more proactive basis -- then your going
through stages of reaction to more proactive stances. And so the more you move along that
continuum, your measurements of success change along with that movement. And now you’re
saying, "Okay, can we get school boards and Latino leadership in a negotiation around school
policy, and get an agreement on the outcome about school policy?” Now that’s a different
measurement of success. That little story, in many ways, speaks to the evolution that CRS went
through. Except for there wasn’t a perfect evolution, because there were people in CRS who
wanted to make the change and the transition to a much more deeply-rooted, longitudinal kind of
intervention, and there were other people who were very much wedded to the reactive model and
wouldn’t change. So you had this kind of schism within CRS, largely and to a certain extent
abetted by the demands from Congress that we show numbers -- well you can show numbers
better reactively than you can proactively......
So, was there more of the long-term, proactive kind of response
later in the history.....?
I think so. I think for one reason, the sheer changing of the economy and scale, so we begin
to have regional offices, CRS goes from a staff of 50 field people to -- at one point -- over 300
people. At its zenith in 1972, before Nixon cut the agency, there were almost 350 people in CRS.
CRS regional offices were composed of, on average, a regional director, a deputy regional
director, a resident mediator, and a conciliation staff of easily 7 or 8 conciliators. Then we had
specialists in housing, police-community relations, economic development and education
attached to each regional office. CRS had something almost like a built-in foundation. It had both
a conflict-response and a resource development mechanism all rolled into one. So when a
mediator -- Silke Silke in Denver was a perfect example of this -- Silke, who has an education
background, Silke would be mediating, and I remember her doing this -- a dispute, it might have
been Aurora or one of the other communities in Colorado, and if it got to a point where the
parties needed more information, she simply called in one of CRS’s education specialists, who
went right on the scene because that person was now separate from Silke. Silke could have given
the same information....
But Silke, of course, had to guard her impartiality. So, we had this incredible resource
on-tap. Several things happened: One was that the CRS was growing too fast for other federal
agencies, who felt we were competing with them; the advocacy thing got us in trouble, and one
of the other things that got us in trouble was that we had a whole program dealing with minority
broadcasters, helping minority broadcasters get licensing. Did you hear that story?
Well, tell me again....
Well, my memory of it is, this was a Hispanic congressman from Texas as I understand. This
was a minority group, a black and Latino group in Texas -- I don’t know which city it was, I
don’t remember -- challenging the traditional stations on relicensing. The station owners go to
the congressman and say, "Should we be worried about these people?” and the congressman
says, "....Bunch of rag-tag militants. Don’t even worry about it.” The license was successfully
challenged; the congressman got hit in his financial pockets, and he had to raise this money every
two years for reelection. He goes on the floor of the House at budget time, and denounces CRS.
Well, he was a Democrat, but it simply gave the Nixon administration just the excuse that they
needed. I think it was more than just that one issue, but it could have been the straw that broke
the camel’s back.
That’s actually a different story.....
No, it’s a version of it...
Did the changing nature of the Civil
Rights movement play into this at all?
Say more about that.
We’ve heard from some people that back in the ‘60s, everybody was into demonstrating,
and there had to be
more "putting out fires” because there were more fires burning. Now, minority groups have
gotten more sophisticated;
they tend to do it more in court, so that the nature of the work that CRS does is changing......
Yeah, I mean, I don’t know what else to say about that. I think that’s true.
Okay. Does that mean that there’s not so much of a role for the agency anymore?
Well again, it goes to....what kind of identity does CRS want to have? I mean, CRS was, I
thought, incredibly wedded, or was certainly split between competing identities. One identity I
would call the "Wounded Knee” identity, flying into a situation, bullets whizzing over your head.
What did you really do? Well, that was secondary. The main thing was the excitement. You were
in the thick of things, and it was tangible, the fear was tangible, it was exhilarating. Not the kind
of ambiguity from doing some of the more long-term kinds of processes where you can’t see the
outcome. Our field [of Conflict Resolution] is a field where you have to live with ambiguity. If
you can’t live with ambiguity, you have no business being in the CR field. But in that way,
CRS, at the end of the day, could say, "Well, I stopped these two guys from burning down a store
in this community. These other two guys were about to pull out a rifle and shoot across a ridge
and I stopped that....” You could count that; you could measure that. It doesn’t matter whether
or not you could actually see what you did.
The other part of the agency -- and I would think that I was one of the people that made the
transition -- I was never really wedded to the fire-fighting notion to begin with, you know -- and
so many of us, who saw the handwriting on the wall, said, "Those of you who think about CRS in
the Wounded Knee fashion are perpetuating a myth of communities that no longer exist. The
minorities in the communities are becoming more sophisticated than we are. Why do they need
us? They don’t really need us -- you’ve got other groups and other organizations.” By that
time, the field of dispute resolution was becoming more professionalized, as there were
community-based DR centers, the justice centers were coming online, and people were just sort
of nibbling away at the flanks of CRS, I’d say from the mid-’70s on. And, you know, much of
the agency had sort of surrounded itself in this reactive approach, and many of us were saying,
"Listen, things are changing and we’d better change.” But there were people who came out of
that Civil Rights era, who knew protests, in fact were comfortable with that because that’s who
they were. The old militant leadership, who knew nothing but protests in communities, began to
lose out to more sophisticated people who had more skills like the Atlanta-based NAACP, and to
negotiating. Not that the protests still weren’t useful from time to time, but the landscape of
disputing was changing, and the agency had a very difficult time making the transition. From
what I understand, from the few people I stay in touch with, there still is some of that difficulty
Do you feel that when you were a
regional director, there was any tension between you and Washington in terms of what was
successful or not?
I think, at the time that I was in the regions, there wasn’t that problem because we didn’t
have that pressure on us. We could do whatever we wanted to do at that point. The definitional
pressures and problems emerged with the cutbacks. We had to survive, and the question was,
how do you survive? That’s where the schism really began, Heidi. I think at that point my
argument was that I didn’t see a reason why we had to throw the baby out with the bath water. I
wasn’t convinced that Congress needed the numbers; when I testified before Congress, it was of
our own volition that we shared the number of disputes -- they didn’t ask us about that. And
even when they did, they weren’t terribly interested. What they were more interested in was
whether you could tell them what you did in their individual districts; now that’s what was more
interesting to them politically. The sheer numbers....well, they would just get glassy-eyed. First of
all, you’re talking about numbers -- when I was there, of doing 1060 cases a year, against an
agency like Health and Human Services doing, you know, 40 times that number, whatever it is
they were doing. So, the point being that I was never convinced that Congress was terribly
impressed by the numbers, but we sort of convinced ourselves that we thought they were -- some
people did. When I got to Washington, some of us tried to get the agency to rethink itself, which
was very, very difficult to do.....to look at different kinds of measurements of success, and then
do more to work harder in convincing Congress and the Attorney General’s office that these
were more important things to do. It was an uphill battle......slightly more successful in the Carter
administration, less compelling in the Nixon administration and in the Reagan administration --
they really didn’t care, frankly.
How does the media play into this? We’ve heard from some
people that, "Oh, we took a very low profile but then that caused us problems when it came time
I think that, again, it’s a situation of the styles of intervention that were, in fact, necessary
from 1964 up through the classic Civil Rights era. The nature of intervention changed afterwards,
and CRS didn’t, in many cases, keep up with the change. So it made sense, when you were in
Selma, Alabama and white businesspeople would come to you privately and say, "We know this
change has got to be made, we can’t talk about it, but we trust you to do this and that you will
not talk about it,” that CRS would always be very low-key. The problem was that there was less
of a need for that than in the South, and though the conflicts changed, the habit is still there. Now
I hear, through the grapevine, that CRS was significantly involved in the Elian Gonzales situation
in Miami. I could read the newspapers, I could read between the lines and I could see CRS’s
fingerprints with nary a word about CRS.
So Janet Reno, who knows CRS very well – and who is a supporter of CRS, bless her soul –
gets the limelight, but CRS was in there doing stuff. CRS played roles in convincing her how to
intervene in the critical hours of taking Elian back from his relatives. Never got into the papers...
it would have been a wonderful story. But CRS does not know how to tell stories
about itself, for one thing, and the other problem is that CRS people don’t write, by and large.
So even when there are opportunities to write for journals in the way that I wrote the negotiation
article I did a few years ago -- I didn’t mention any particular cities, I simply wrote it from a
composite perspective. It was really about two cities but I didn’t have to use their names. Well,
CRS people could do the same thing, but they’ve gotten themselves into this notion that they
can’t write, and there’s no indication that that’s true. They could write, those of them who
have a bit of a theory perspective, could write that way. I mean, John Chase could write, and can
How much do you know about the Gonzales case?
Not a lot.
There was a hint in the newspaper that mediation did take place, and I myself was wondering
if CRS did that.
The role that I understand CRS played was -- Tom Battles, who is the Miami field office
representative -- I know all of the CRS people on the scene as well, but what they did was, they
worked very closely with Janet Reno and her staff, advising her about the temperament in the
community and on the timing of taking Elian back from his relatives and how that could be done.
So, to me it’s interesting and somewhat ironic, to the extent that the media portrayed this as sort
of a jack-booted intervention. In fact, I guess it could have been a lot worse had CRS not been
there......you could argue.
What do you know, if anything -- I’ve been curious for a while -- there was.....I don’t even
remember where he was from.....the black guy in New York who was shot 41 times.....?
......I said to myself, my God, another Rodney King.....the city’s going to blow up.
And it didn’t.
Was that CRS?
I’ve no idea.
I’m just curious, because it certainly looked like it would have been. Are there some things
that CRS can do that others mediators can’t do because they’re with the Department?
Well, I think what CRS can do -- and it cuts both ways -- is that CRS can often-times get
entre where other mediators can’t, because they have a platform. For better or for worse, they
represent an official agency, which waxes and wanes in its reputation depending upon what’s
gone down before that CRS intervention. So if it’s Waco, Texas......not too good! So, in many
ways, somebody coming in from the XYZ Mediation Center couldn’t get to first base, whereas
CRS has got their nose in. The problem with that, though, is that once you get your nose in the
tent, there’s an expectation that you’re going to conduct an investigation, and then CRS has to
say, "No, we don’t do investigations; we do assessments.” "What’s the difference?” And then
you have to go into the difference between an assessment and an investigation. So, then you’re
going to be quick on your feet. On the other hand – it’s again sort of ironic – there was a
conflict....actually, it was in one of the cities that I talk about in the Negotiation Journal article.
It’s a city that I did an intervention in while I was here at ICAR, that CRS had attempted to get
involved in before Frank and I came in, and they got thrown out!
Well, because the city official did not want – the NAACP and the African American
community were calling for an investigation of something – allegation of police use of excessive
force, so they were calling for an investigation. So the poor CRS representatives go in, and say,
"Well, we’d like to be able to help,” and the city manager says, "No way. We don’t want
anything to do with the Department of Justice.” And they said, "Well, we don’t represent it at
all.” "Yeah, sure.” So then I come in with Frank; we go in and we successfully intervene in that
case. And I didn’t have to do this because my portfolio wasn’t being requested, but the
impishness in me said, "Oh, by the way, I used to work for CRS.....” (laughter)
And this is why you work here?
How often did that happen – that CRS was denied.....?
Oh, lots. It happened a number of times.
Would they go in anyway?
You could. The "Title Ten" Mandate says that CRS can go in under its own volition, but in a
practical effect, what good does that do? If you can’t work with anyone.......?
Tell me a little bit about how you
go about building trust, especially with the white community.
Well, one way that it happens is that many of the cities in which CRS intervenes – or has
interventions – are repeats. So, you know, Silke has probably been into wherever – Aurora, let’s
say – thousands of times over the last 15 years that she’s been in Denver. After a while, people
get to know you, and so trust gets built up over what you did in the past. People trust you from
that standpoint, and that’s one way that it happens. Another way it happens is to go in and
suggest to the establishment, "Gee, Police Chief Jones, why don’t you call Chief Johnson in
so-and-so city. You’re all members of the Association of Chiefs of Police. Give him a call and
talk to him about what we did.” Often times, that would even happen without your having to
suggest that. So you make your phone calls, that you’re going to intervene, so there’s usually a
lapse time of a day or two. By the time you get there, that police chief may have already checked
Have you ever had a problem where you weren’t trusted
because of your race?
Sure. I did an intervention in one of the bigger midwestern cities. Again, it was a situation of
police using excessive force. It was a mediation, and I don’t think the police chief trusted me; I
think he felt that I was not neutral. So I think there was a situation where the mediation broke
down. I don’t know that it broke down completely because the police chief didn’t trust me; I
think there were other factors involved....
Were you able to get around that?
Again, without fully knowing the real reason the mediation broke down, it’s hard to say. I
was there on two occasions for relatively short intervals, for maybe two days. It’s hard to say,
without a lot of discourse in between the actual sessions, what aspect of this had to do with the
fact that he didn’t trust me. I don’t think he would have ever said that, and I would have had to
attempt to ferret that out in some form or fashion, which would have been difficult to do without
more exposure to him and more feedback.
But you didn’t manage to get back on track?
Some closing questions that deal with theoretical
questions.....How did you usually get involved in cases? Did people call you up, or did you go
out looking for cases.....?
Well both ways. There were several ways that CRS got involved. You’d get calls – and
again, it has to do with trust and reputation. The more you did, and the more you were known,
the more frequently you got calls to come into a situation, rather than having to go through the
newspaper, find a conflict and then sort of figure out how to make the contacts to get in – doing
what we would call the "cold contact” fashion. The more we did work over the years in various
communities around the country, the more people knew CRS, and actually the more calls that
would come from the establishment side, as well.
And then, once you got in, how did you conduct your assessment?
Well, several ways. There are two types of assessments: The first level of assessment should
be deciding whether you’re even going to intervene. And that’s mainly a content-analysis kind
of approach; you know, you’re doing some reading of articles, reading papers, trying to see if
you can get a sense of the issues. "Is this amenable to a CRS intervention?” At one point, CRS
had a fairly sophisticated – for want of a better term – crisis-response analysis mechanism that
ranked disputes and conflicts on levels of intensity. That was supposed to act as a guide for your
intervention, but I think if a CRS person wanted to get involved in something, he/she would
manipulate the data so that it would meet the appropriate level of intensity. But.....
What were the criteria....?
I don’t remember.....one of them would be, "Is there violence taking place?” for example.
"Are more militant groups in the community involved?” "Is there at least a preliminary
assessment that some level of damage has happened?” A lot of the intervention mechanisms
were sort of built around a crisis-response situation. One of the problems with that mechanism
was that it did not re-tune itself to capture measurements for the more sophisticated kinds of
disputes and conflicts, so that was discarded fairly quickly as I recall. So you would do an initial
assessment, and then you would determine – based upon the level of conflict, the accessibility of
it. Some determination was based upon an economic scale (were there enough resources to get
involved?) If the conflict was a thousand miles from the regional office, did it make sense to
actually get involved in that particular issue when you could do something else? So you do that
level of assessment, and then the second level of assessment would be on-site. On-site
assessment was tantamount to intervention. It’s pretty difficult to go into a town to do an on-site
assessment and then not get involved, so it’s tantamount to the intervention. So over time,
on-site assessments really became assessments to determine what you would do, not whether or
not you would do it. And then there would be the intervention. Of course, the typical CRS
method would be to decide who to interview, and then who to interview first, and then explore
whether or not the sides were amenable to any kind of a process for coming together for a way of
negotiating out their issues. Sometimes you wouldn’t use the term "negotiation”; you might call
it "talk”, or whatever.
So when you were making that
initial telephone assessment as to whether CRS should get involved, was one of your criteria
whether or not you thought they’d be amenable to talks, or was that something that was left for
Well, you’d get some of that. If you got into a conversation with people on the phone, you
might ask, "Is this something that you think you’d like to get resolved? What do you see
happening? What do you want to do with this?” You may not ask them about whether or not they
want to get it resolved; you might ask, "What do you see as an outcome? What would you like to
see happen in this particular situation?” Depending upon what they would say, that would give
you some clues as to their willingness to sit down and talk.
And if you had the feeling that they probably wouldn’t, would
that be a reason for you not to get involved?
Not necessarily. It certainly would make your job a lot harder, but what CRS would do is
that they would change the nature of the intervention. So if the intervention was initially thought
of as being a conciliation or a mediation that would bring both sides together, and one side or the
other (particularly the establishment side) decided that they didn’t want that to happen, you
could still go in, but you wouldn’t be doing that; you’d be doing something else. Maybe trying
to reduce the level of violence, or doing some kind of evaluative work with the minority.......it
tended to get CRS people in trouble when they did that, because the other side always knew
when you were in town, and you’d have to sort of answer to the question: "I thought we told
you we weren’t interested.” "Yeah, but I’m here doing something else.” And you don’t want
to push it to the point where you’re saying, "I’m the federal government, and I can go
anywhere I want.” You don’t want to do that.
Did you ever try to sort of surprise them?
Sometimes. Sometimes it would require people to actually see you and talk to you, and they
thought about things a little differently, like, "Okay, now that you’re here, I’d like to hear what
you have to say...” or, "What have you found out?” would be often-times the question. "So what
have you found out?” Well, that’s a wedge that you could exploit.
And you told them what you found out?
Not entirely. Not if you want to stay involved without violating confidentiality. You’d sort
of have to couch it in terms of saying, "It seems to me, that there’s a lot of concern about
so-and-so,” "My perception is that people sort of feel that.....” So you’re couching it in those
kinds of terms, and what you’re dealing with is addressing very specific comments that people
made. If people say, you know, "That police chief is a son-of-a-bitch,” then you’d say things
like, "You know, there’s a lot of concern about some of the policies in the police department.”
(laughter) You know, reframing!
So once you got on-site, you did your assessment. How did you
establish what your plan of attack – well, terrible phrase.....
Yeah – what your plan was going to be?
Well, I don’t know. No CRS person is a tabula rasa. You only have kind of an imprint, and
part of that comes from having done a number of cases like this in the past. Whatever it is that
you’re going to do, you’ve probably done, unless you’re a complete novice. You’ve done
something like that in the past, and you already have in your mind – you’ve got a kind of a
tableau. And then the question is, you want to see, "Well, does this fit?” If it fits, you might
decide to simply use it. If it doesn’t fit, then the question is, how are you going to try to force it
to fit? And many CRS people try to do exactly that: They try to force the square peg into the
proverbial round hole. It wouldn’t fit, but if you read the reports, they could make fit it anyway!
When I was Associate Director of Field Coordination, I spent much of my time reading field
reports, but I would also sometimes have independent flows of information. So, I’m reading this
report from the beginning of an entry to its closure, a reporting out of the successful concluding
of this case, and I said, "Is this person in the same city that....somebody else was?” But in a
normative way, what you try to do is go through a series of adjustments: "It looks like this, but no
it doesn’t. It doesn’t look like that; so what is it? Something else?” And so there’s this degree
of interpretation and categorization that you had to sort of try to do. "How can I then change what
I do so that it meets this particular need?” This is a process – and I should know – that can be
expanded over some time, and it never stops. So an assessment is ongoing. Sometimes, in a kind
of showman-like practice in the moment, you kind of have to make those adjustments right in the
middle of a situation. Everybody has to do that; I don’t think that’s different from what
anybody else does.
Right. How much do you involve
the parties in designing the process?
Well it depends. CRS’s broad conciliation work really falls into technical assistance; CRS
had a huge technical assistance capacity. So when CRS was doing long-range kinds of trainings
with police departments and citizens, or they would be doing work in.... I think one of the
interventions that I was most proud of was the intervention we did in Syracuse, New York, to
assist the school desegregation process. That was just a terrific and wonderful piece because it
involved so many different parts of the agency. It was a conciliation effort, it was technical
assistance resource, it was problem-solving workshops, there was on-the-spot dispute settlement
taking place, and it was televised, with part of it done on public television. One of them was just
before I came down to Washington. It was about ‘76 or ‘77, and it was a terrific case.....what
was my point? My point was that in the process of doing that, we actually had a committee
formed in the community composed of residents and educators who actually formed a kind of
advisory team, as I recall, that we worked with throughout this process. And there were a lot of
CRS cases, particularly the ones from the ‘70s, that had that kind of flavor. Silke did a lot of
work like that I recall.
This is the first time I've ever heard anybody talk about problem-solving workshops. It
might be because even though other people did it, they didn't use the same term. Tell me how
that changed things and how it was carried on.
Well, I think that in the case of Syracuse, there was a series of them, this was an initiative
that lasted over a period of several months. Much of it was planning, and then there was a week
or two of specific sessions, of all the different types, and one of them was working with
educators around specific issues involved in going from a so-called segregated school system to a
desegregated one that involved pupil transfers, curriculum development work, school climate
analysis.....we did a force-field analysis with them there.
What was that?
Force-field analysis? It's an approach where you weigh the pluses and the minuses of a
situation and see if it tells you anything. It's an informed decision-making process. That's what it
really boils down to. These were done in workshop-type settings.
With whom were you participating?
Principals, teachers, and as I recall, probably human relation specialists. CRS used to publish
these booklets occasionally on various interventions, and this is one of those little booklets. It’s
around someplace. I’ll see if I’ve got it.
And it would have been referring specifically to.....
It would have said, "Syracuse, New York”.
So it didn’t involve the community?
It did, but the problem-solving workshops that I’m recalling were ones that, I think,
involved primarily educators. We had parents and youth involved in other kinds of workshops,
but I ......workshops I recall.
Now how would you distinguish that from mediation?
Well, in the sense that there wasn’t a specific dispute. There was an issue of
implementation. The desegregation order had already been in place – the question was how to
So there wasn’t the bill of particulars that .....students on one side or the other.
Now how did this end up on television?
Public television in Syracuse got wind of it, and asked if they could broadcast – not the
entire thing, but they picked one day. They actually videotaped and filmed one day of workshops
of various types with some voice-over, there was a narrator, and we are all in the screen credits.
They interviewed us. It was a gas.
And nobody objected?
Did it change the dynamics at all?
So people didn’t play to the TV?
No. No offhand effect, interestingly enough. At least, I don’t recall there being any. There
were several filmings going on at the same time and I couldn’t be everywhere, so there may
have been some of that. But my sense was that the nature of the deliberations didn’t call for
that. We had worked with them for so many months before they got to that point, I don’t think
people felt the need to do that sort of thing.
Did this happen in any other case?
Probably. I think that one of the best things that CRS did – Marty Walsh was involved in this
– long before peer mediation got popularized, CRS probably did the pioneer work in peer-based
mediation in the schools. There was a wonderful video done about that, where CRS had
undertaken this initiative in a number of cities, and it all got put together in a video. It’s in the
archives somewhere. It’s got these wonderful narrations from students, from educators, from
parents, about the processes. This is going back now to – early ‘80s, I’d say ‘81 or ‘82. Check
with Marty Walsh.
So CRS was training students?
Was this part of the desegregation effort?
I don’t think it was a part. The formal desegregation efforts were when CRS was written in
to remedy orders, which you may be aware of. And so there was much of that being done. The
other work may have had some kind of collateral relationship to that, but for the most part was
dealing with issues of school violence. But school violence, in many cases in those days,
emanated from school desegregation processes that were taking place.
Okay. How did you go about identifying the underlying dispute
in a conflict?
Again, the assessment would do that. It depends on what the intervener wants seen. So,
again, from my perch as the Associate Director, I’m getting a field report, and I see how the
conflict is defined, then I see how the intervener has decided to array the issues for intervention,
and where he or she has decided to intervene. And my comment is, "That’s not what the conflict
is about. Here’s the conflict; how come you’re not intervening in that?” So it’s in the eye of
the beholder. For those people who were aligned with the notion of deep-rooted conflict and the
understanding of the need to be involved in underlying issues, that’s what they would find.
Others wouldn’t see that. Classic Shakespeare.....(laughter).... All I see are these trees!”
How did you decide when it was appropriate for the parties to
get together and when not?
Again, I think it would depend upon the conflict. For example, in a particularly violent
conflict, where there’s a riot – first things first. And again, even this is somewhat controversial
from a social theory standpoint -- there’s the notion that conflict intervention is designed to
simply maintain the status quo and cool people out. So riot prevention cools people out, and
removes the justification of anger that can really give grit to the complaints that people have. On
the other hand, people are dying. So, the people who are espousing that belief are not the
mothers, locked cell-like in their apartments, who can’t go out at night to get milk for their
babies because people will be shooting machine guns in the area. You’re not responsible for
that, but somebody has to be. You’re not always pulling people together; you’re simply doing
a very hands-on conciliation approach to violence prevention. Then, before it gets to the point
where people can fairly quickly become reconciled to the fact that we’ve stopped the violence,
and then it’s back to business as usual, we say, "Now that we’ve got your attention, and we
have some moments of respite here, are you willing to sit down and talk?” And then that’s the
time to begin the process of pulling people together.
Do you really say, "Now that I’ve got your attention....”?
Well, this is you and I talking! (laughter) Not quite the same way.....
Did you ever perceive that CRS’s involvement would stop a
useful protest activity?
Are you following your nose now? (laughter) No, much of what I write about in that chapter
of the book is about the responsibility of intervention. I don’t think most CRS people felt that
they could ethically let a situation go unattended like that to the point of some conflagration,
even though they thought it was justified. I mean, ethically, you sort of had to get involved.
What about short of violence, though? If there was a demonstration?
Well, I think why you were there was to try to make sure that the demonstration was
peaceful. It could still be loud – the question would be balancing out what the demonstrators
needed to do to present a forceful portrait of the issue they were dealing with against the city’s
wishes to end the demonstration entirely. And that would often-times become a conciliation point
before you got into the actual agenda. So, the city would say, "This demonstration has got to end.
If it doesn’t end, we’re going to enforce a temporary restraining order,” which means calling
the police in and the possibility of violence. And so you’d have to negotiate that. "Okay, we
won’t enforce the TRO, but we don’t want the demonstrators blocking the entrance to
whatever-the-building.” "Well, they are blocking the entrance.” That was just a matter of some
skill, of how to work with both sides to allow for the symbolic aspect of the demonstration to go
forward, without compromising the protest movement – not only what they were doing, but the
implications for negotiations later on.
How did you diminish tension between very hostile parties?
I don’t know. I guess there were a number of different techniques. One way would be to
actually bring people into a forum where they could hear what the other person was saying,
absent of the kind of rhetorical flourishes that would often-times take place in the other forum.
So, in one situation in that midwestern city I mentioned earlier, the local militant, who was given
to walking into the City Council chambers and completely disrupting the City Council meeting,
but had to be escorted or carried out by the police – that, and activities like that, defined who he
was in the minds of the white establishment, which created a certain amount of tension. So what
we were offering was a different forum for him to be heard. The response was, "He’s going to
act up.” "Well, you’ve got to trust us that he’s not going to take that particular stance.” And
then that’s your job, as the intervener, to assure that that doesn’t happen, to a certain extent.
So, often-times you’d hear things: "You never told me that before.” "You never gave me the
chance to talk to you like that.” When you start hearing that dialogue, you can start pulling out. I
mean, you can start literally pulling yourself out of the triad. They’re talking to each other;
they’re now talking from the heart about what they didn’t say to each other, over all of these
years that they could have been talking. "I didn’t know you felt this way.” "Well, you weren’t
listening.” So, that’s one way. CBMs are another way – Confidence-Building Measures. It’s
another way of doing it: "So, demonstrate to me that you’re serious about making some change,
and then I’ll respond.” Typical in the international arena, but Confidence-Building Measures
can also be demonstrated in local, domestic issues as well. So that’s another way of doing it.
The classic building-block approach – the whole way you build trust.....
What do you do when you get to an impasse?
I have a technique I use often-times in that kind of setting – I don’t know that everyone can
do that, but this is what I like to do: I just stop in the middle of a situation, and I say, "Stop.
What’s going on here? What’s going on?” "Well, what is going on? We’re not talking to
each other.” So parties begin to stop and reflect. You get them to actually identify what’s
happening and why it’s happening. That’s one way that I break an impasse. Obviously, forums
and caucuses are another way to correcting and impasse – getting people away from the table,
metaphorically speaking. Then you can really beat them up, in the caucus, in an evaluative way,
that you wouldn’t dare do at the table.
Would you try to push them in a direction that looks to you like
it would be profitable to move?
I think you don’t worry about that, because you don’t know what’s profitable for them,
always. You may have some ideas about that, but the most that I’m comfortable doing, usually,
is to say, "Have you thought about these issues?” I’m strongly tempted sometimes to say, "Hey,
I live on this planet too. I’ve been around for a whole lot of years, and I think I know.” But you
never really know, and you take a risk when you tell someone with some degree of evaluative
certitude, "You need to be doing this.” That’s not a good idea. So, if I can simply say, "Gee,
have you thought about this? What would this look like? If you do this, what are the
consequences of this?”
Would you say, "I think I heard some consensus around x”?
How do you decide when to end your involvement with a case?
Well, sometimes CRS doesn’t have control over that. I mean, sometimes, there’s a
demand for CRS, particularly if you’re understaffed in a region or a certain situation, they might
have to sort of end it prematurely. But again, ending a case depends upon the vision and the
perspective of the CRS person involved. If you’ve got the kind of conciliator or the kind of
intervener who looks at intervention in a kind of fairly narrow, reactive, fire-fighting
contingency-based fashion, he or she will see one form of ending. And so, as far as they’re
concerned, when they’ve done that it’s ended, whether it’s actually ended or not. Someone
else who sees it in a more longitudinal, more causal kind of way, will look for other kinds of
ways of ending it. Of course, the problem with the latter is, what then is conclusion? One of the
problems we’re having now in the field of conflict resolution is defining what closure looks
like. And, what responsibility do you have for impact measurements that ricochet outward
beyond the agreement, and I think we’re all still sort of grappling with that. As we change the
nature of the intervention, it also raises some troubling questions about closure.
And long-term responsibility....
What does CRS do about that?
Well again, in some cases CRS would be available for re-entry. That would be one way of
But not all cases?
But not all cases. And not all CRS people are amenable to that. And then also the question
would be, "Was re-entry recidivist, from the standpoint of going back over something that simply
was not well-taken-care-of the first time around? Are you going back to band-aid again, or are
you going back to deal with another level of the conflict issue? And that case is fine. Because
there’s nothing to say, by the way, that because we intervene at some kind of level, then that’s
it. You know, most things are going to have other faults and weaknesses; that is human nature,
after all. The question is not whether the conflict has been fully-resolved, but what has it moved
on to, and are you responding to this new level of conflict that’s been taking place here?
And even if it was to change, that it wasn’t dealt with adequately the first time, so it comes
back again that it’s not a new level, it’s the same thing over again. It does seem to me that the
CRS might just go in and do it right the second time.
Yeah, right. Do it right the second time.
So then what situation would you not go back in on?
That’s a good question. I think one where I felt there was a level of dishonesty by the
parties to their intent. I would think that, and this happened often, simply because there was a
disempowered minority community – that did not remove the potential for manipulation from
that community. That community can still be manipulative, or leadership in that community
could be manipulative. People have political agendas and I think that, at least from my view, if I
felt that CRS was going to be a part of somebody’s political agenda I would be inclined not to
want to go back. Now, of course if they threatened you – "If you don’t come back in, we are
going to call Jesse Jackson, or we are going to call the NAACP, or we know when you are going
to come up before Congress for your budget and we are going to complain that you weren’t
there.” I found that actually never happened, but.....
What about the opposite? "If you come in here, I’m going to
complain to my Congressman.”
Yeah, that happened a lot.
Did it affect your position?
Sometimes. Depends on who the person was. It depends on what kind of reputation you
thought you had with that Congressperson, in general. If you thought you had a pretty good
reputation with that Congressperson, you could say – you wouldn’t be flippant about it, at least I
hope you wouldn’t be – "I think that if that’s what you want to do, you can certainly do that. I
think that CRS would do a good service if they were needed, but I can’t stop you from
complaining.” Congressional officials were much more even-handed then I think most people
gave them credit for. Most of the time, they would have a staff person call and the staff person
almost invariably, I would find, would be even-handed. Even from relatively conservative
Congress people who believed in the classic low profile of the federal government. They are
professional people. They are saying, "We’ve got this concern. This complaint came in; can
you give us some idea of what you are trying to do there?” So you explain it. I rarely found that
we were asked to get out of a particular situation by a Congressperson. Rarely did that
Were there any cases where you were asked to become involved
in what you thought were inappropriate situations for mediation?
Probably. I can’t think of anything right now, but I’m sure there were. There were some
things, actually I think of conflicts and situations that I’ve intervened in later in my career that
sort of fit that, but I don’t remember very clearly that being the case in CRS. I’m sure there
What sort of things did you run into later?
Well, situations where I felt that – in an organizational conflict where I felt the director of
the agency was not honest with why he wanted to be in negotiations. I couldn’t do that. What
was happening in that particular instance, as I recall, was that the county was planning on
conducting a major riff that the employees in his organization were not aware of, but he knew
and he wanted to get involved in the mediation or negotiations that would have attempted to
re-stratify levels of positions and promotions. The other one I got was – and this is really kind of
funny – this was some years ago. I got a call from a Navy missile base somewhere in the
mid-Atlantic region, who called and asked whether I, or any of my colleagues here, might be
prepared to give him and his staff negotiation skills training. Now, I’m always a little suspicious
when I hear about an organization that only wants negotiation skills from me, that’s not
interested in mediation. So, what’s going on? They said, "Well, we are subject to the United
Nations missile inspection like many other bases in countries around the world, and we want to
negotiate the least amount of disclosure possible.” So I said, "Oh, I see. So, you’re no different
then the Iraqis. No, no thank you. Maybe somebody else would do that, but I won’t.”
What do you think are the most important skills for a Civil
Empathy, compassion, the ability to see the complexity of Civil Rights issues, and to
understand that they really are not – no pun intended – black-and-white kinds of issues. They
are very complex issues. Within that complexity, the realization that there is goodness in people
on both sides of an issue, and that people are essentially trying to live their lives in ways that are
not threatening for them. I think these are some of the -- if you want to call them skills or forms
of insights -- that I think a Civil Rights mediator has to have. And, a vision. I think if you have
no vision, you can’t ask good questions in a mediation process, or in a dispute-resolution
process. You have to have a vision of a just society in order to be able to position yourself. At
key times in that process, someone has to say, "What kind of world do you want to live in?” If
you aren’t clear about that yourself, the parties will certainly discern that fairly quickly, and I
think that you will not be effective. I think Civil Rights mediation, perhaps more so then other
kinds, requires a willingness to be an advocate for a certain kind of society that we live in. You
have to speak to that. I don’t think you could establish a position of neutrality about that. I
think that would be hearsay.
Does that cause you problems?
It never has me.
Did other people in the agency run into problems when they did that?
They may have. I think it depends upon how you articulate that vision. If you articulate a
vision that, to put it in the vernacular, "Black folk have been downtrodden and beaten all their
lives, so now is the time to take over,” you’re not going to get very far. That’s not the kind of
vision I have in mind.
Do you articulate the vision, or do you keep it to yourself and try to move toward it?
I think it’s both. You try to move toward it, but there are times that if it’s really, really
working well, you don’t have to say anything at all. Parties are moving toward it and you can
have them all embrace it when they get there or as they develop an approach to get there. More
often than not, I think you need to say something about that. Sometimes it’s best said in caucus,
but sometimes it can be said at the table. A lot of it depends upon how you know yourself. So, I
know who I am and I know what I can say well, and I also know what I can’t say well. In that
area, I have a lot of confidence in myself that I can say this in a way that attempts to build an
acknowledgment of that on both sides, and that doesn’t come across as being particularly
threatening. But, I don’t think this is a teachable skill. I don’t like to get involved to embrace
this notion of mysticism in the conflict resolution processes. But I think this is something that
you can’t be taught. This is something that you need to feel, in some sort of fashion. This
isn’t a skill, but I think it’s a preferred attribute. I see nothing wrong with being passionate in
intervention. I don’t ascribe to the automaton mode.
Any other lessons that you learned from your experiences that
you think are valuable, either to you now, or to other people?
There’s one that I convey to students all that time, and that is, "You will make mistakes.”
The question is not whether or not you make a mistake, it’s can you recover from it, because
you are going to make mistakes. I said Roger Fisher makes mistakes. Everybody makes
mistakes in this business. You’re dealing with human nature and uncontrollables. So, that’s
one that I drew from my CRS experience. The other is a kind of faith in human nature – that
people ultimately come more out of a Lockeian perspective then a Hobbesian one. I believe that.
You have to find ways of tapping into that. Some of the experiences
that some of us had at CRS were just undeniably transformative, transformative because they
brought you into a context of people that most people in our society never encounter.
So when you say transformative, for you or for the parties?
Well sometimes it was for both, but I’m speaking now primarily about myself. The ability
to be in a community with a colleague -- we speak of trust, but we didn’t speak about trust
between interveners themselves. There is no time in situations like that to doubt whether or not
you trust the person you are intervening with, in those situations. It was just tremendous. But
I’ve been blessed. I have been very, very fortunate, in a 40-year career, to have had those kinds
of jobs. I mean, working with street gangs there yielded these kinds of transformative moments,
as well as with the community corporation. So I think CRS more so because I was there the
longest. I was in CRS for 20 years.
Is it something about the nature of that work that makes it more transformative than other
kinds of mediation?
I think so, because it’s not gilded – if you want to use the model that we were discussing
earlier when we first began this conversation. It’s not your kind of relatively dry,
interests-based issues. You’re dealing with really deeply-rooted values and human needs, and
it’s incredibly humbling. Another thing that’s not a skill, but a virtue I think a civil rights
mediator needs to have, is humility. The fact that people have allowed you into their lives. I’m
always amazed by that. Even in the work that I do now, that isn’t it amazing that someone,
some group of people, have let us come into their lives to leave our fingerprints on what they’re
doing in their lives. As I’ve often-times said, it’s sort of like putting your finger into a
swiftly-moving stream, because once you put your finger in that stream it will never flow quite
the same way again. That’s the kind of feeling that gets you up in the morning, all these years,
to do that kind of work. It’s terrific.
That’s a good way to close, but it leads me to one more mundane question, but one I’m
curious about, which is, how do you weigh-in on the debate over transformative mediation versus
Oh, well you know the brouhaha that went around about that. You know, first of all let me
say this for Baruch and for Bob, that what I thought they really did was to take a huge risk and
speak to the kind of icons of power in the field, in ways that they needed to be spoken to. To say
that there is more to this business than simply just getting an agreement. Now, the problems I
have with the book: for example, without getting into labeling -- some people have, and I’ve
done this in other forms, have described their approach as being elitist. Well, that might be too
harsh a term. I don’t think of Baruch or Bob as being elitist at all. I know the work that Baruch
does in Brooklyn, and he’s not an elitist. But I do fault them in a sense that they criticize what
they call the "problem-solving approach”. I wish they would stop using that term, but – for want
of a better phrase right now, they talk about their concerns with the problem-solving process and
then they raise the Rodney King-Los Angeles riots of ‘91-‘92 as an example of where the
problem-solving process didn’t work. They don’t tell us, though, how their approach of
empowerment and recognition would work any better. I fault the book in that sense. In that
same vein, my concern is that they lead one to believe -- and if you speak to them
conversationally they don’t say this or necessarily support this -- but the book leads you to
believe that empowerment and recognition are paramount in getting an agreement. Well, try
telling that to underprivileged, disempowered groups of people. Minorities, and women that, you
know, all you need to have happen from this is that your boss, or the powers-that-be say, "I feel
your pain, and boy, I’m glad this process has empowered you to speak to this issue! In the
meanwhile we aren’t going to change a damn thing." Big problem for me. Now, unfortunately,
what happens is that people immediately look to the demographics of the writers and say, "Well,
what to do you expect from two white men?” I think that’s a little unfair in that sense, because
I don’t know them that way personally, but that’s how it sounds. Now, if you talk to them,
they don’t really feel that way when you actually talk to them, but it comes out that way in the
book. The only other problem I’ve had, is that I wish they had used other examples where the
parties didn’t seem to me to be -- how should I say this -- clinical. I mean, there’s an ethical
question of whether or not the woman who was a tenant in that landlord-tenant situation should
have been in mediation. I thought she was clinical and the same goes for that guy in the housing
thing that they were dealing with – the neighbor issue. I don’t know about mediating with
people like that. That’s the interesting point: Should you mediate if you suspect that people
may not have all their faculties? You can pull them off to side-bar preparation and negotiation
skills training all you like, until the cows come home, but if they aren’t mentally prepared to go
for this process, then you are inviting some difficulty. Ultimately, as I was saying in the
beginning of this conversation, the moment you begin to move parties out of their relatively
non-rational kind of "belt” – almost non-verbal, value-based human needs – you’re
immediately moving into a more rational process. And I just worry that, in some cases, people
might not have that ability. Should you be mediating with them? I don’t know. Or, maybe what
we need to do is think about intervention teams, where you have a process person, who’s got
the process skills – as we’re more familiar with mediation and conciliation, broadly constituted
– but that person’s working with a psychiatrist. Something of that sort. One of the things that
we’re thinking about here – and I think others are as well – is that the nature of the kinds of
interventions that we’re doing now are so complex, that why not think about teams of
intervention people who have different kinds of training? I mean, it’s all intervention, but
we’re looking at people taking different parts of it. So, we’ve had the idea of using
anthropologists and ethnographers in conflicts where you have traditional cultures involved,
because they have the skills to understand culture, and how culture plays itself out on the ground.
So we have Kevin Avruch, who teaches in our program, and Kevin does a piece with our
practicum students about, "What do you see when you go in the field? What do you look for?”
Because they’re trained observers. Things like that.
I heard you implying that you do a transformative kind of thing at the beginning – where
you’re working with the values, and then you transition into an interest-based process. In the
book, it says you can’t have both.
I disagree. I mean, ultimately, you have to deal with the presenting issue. So what’s the
point – how are value-based needs expressed, and what are they expressed about? They’re
expressed about the fact that you are disenfranchised, you are disempowered......well, how?
Because you can’t get into the schools, because you can’t get employment, because of the
whole nature of the structural disempowerment of our society – but what does that really mean?
It has to be articulated in real terms. Well, the moment you do that, at some point you’re going
to have to say, "Okay, now how are we actually going to do the changes?” The moment you do
that, you’re involved in an interest-based mediation. You need to read – Mara Schoeny, who’s
a doctoral student here, and I, are writing an article for Negotiation Journal. Bill is going to kill
us if we don’t get the editing done, so we’ve got to get the editing done; it’s supposed to be
coming out in July. I don’t even want to look at my e-mails; there’s probably something in
there from him right now! What Mara and I are doing, is that we’re making an argument that
there’s been too much "baby with the bath water” in this field. There is this kind of social
justice, sticking-your-nose-up-in-the-air concern about people who do interests-based forms of
intervention, which is considered a kind of maintenance of the status quo. The people who do
that kind of work say that the "starry-eyed, peacekeeping people”– with visions of sticking
dandelions in gun barrels – are off in some sort of outer-space unreality. We argue that there’s
been a miscommunication, and that both are needed in some form or fashion. So it’ll be
interesting to get your response to that article when it comes out.
Yeah, I’ll read it. Well, you had a lovely, flowery closing comment. Can you come up with
No. I’m exhausted! I’m surprised at how there’s still that lingering emotionalism about
CRS, because I don’t think about the agency in a very specific kind of way much, in recent
years. But I forget how foundational that experience was for me.