What cultural or racial factors influenced the process?


Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Along the way, the Italian American group could not come up with anything meaningful for its portion of the agenda. They wanted sick leave for the work program. That was their issue, sick leave. Thatís all they could think. Their leader said, "We really donít have anything here,Ē and during the course of the mediation, the Italian Americans acknowledged they werenít a culture group. They had no issues and they were beginning to feel awkward. It didnít really manifest itself until later at the table when they basically said, "Weíre dissolving, because we have no reason to be here.Ē While listening to others at the table, they came to understand and appreciate the plight of the racial minority groups, and they didnít want to be there.

Question:
Now are you saying you created a black agenda and a white agenda?

Answer:
No, no. I merged all of the agenda items, but the cultural items were often grouped.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Another similar sort of question relates to the statement that is being made quite a bit in the field now, that white Americans have whatís being called the dominant North American model of mediation. Many people think it doesn't work in other cultures and this has been very much said in relation to Africa, Central and South America. Some people are extending that to minority cultures within the United States. Do you, or did you see any need to adopt different approaches for different cultural groups?

Answer:
I was never involved in a formal of mediation with the American Indian Community, but I doubt it would be the same as the traditional mediation model that we know. More consultation would be needed, more time would be needed. I was told by a Korean-American mediator, whoís active in the Asian Mediation Center in Los Angeles, that he had a problem when the parties shared their problem with him and then they expected him to be a party to the conflict too. They refused to accept his contentions that his involvement ended when the agreement was signed. They wanted the mediator to immerse himself in the problem and stay involved in the event the agreement broke down. If you donít know that culture from the outset, you are going to have trouble with another model. And if you try to impose another ground rule, youíre going to get into trouble. In El Salvador where Iím working now, weíre building a conflict resolution component, a local Zone of Peace to address violence in 86 low income communities. There are people who went in, before I had got there, who wanted a big mediation program as part of this. That wonít work. During our assessment we found out that what will work, is a system already in place where a directorate decides community conflicts. They come together, so that if the issue is over the availability of water in the community, itís the directorate that makes that decision or resolves it. Does this mean that thereís no mediation? No it doesnít. It means that you respect that current process, and maybe you give some mediation type training, teach the skills of mediators to the members of the directorate and the community so they have options and alternatives to make them better, more effective in the way theyíre doing it. Is there a place for mediation or mediational behaviors to be used there? I think part of this is how you use the word "mediation." Formal mediation structured in certain ways, no, itís not appropriate in certain places. But the techniques of mediation and being mediational in behaviors are.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
I have a theoretical question for you. At the Conflict Consortium, we have been working on a theory of intractable conflicts for a long time. We have said that intractable conflicts generally cannot be mediated (almost by definition) and that identity conflicts, including racial conflicts, are particularly likely to be intractable. So as I was listening to your discussion about the orange, I began to wonder, how do you get people to reframe a conflict from being about race to being about something else?

Answer:
It's what I started talking about early on. You don't talk about race; instead, you ask, "What are the hiring policies?" or, "What are the discipline issues?" You ask, "What does the curriculum look like?" or, "Do you have access to the establishment, to the superintendent?" Because even though the community sees the superintendent as being racist and as being the reason why they can't get what they want, the real issues and I'm not going to say race hasn't influenced what has happened there but the next level or the level at which this needs to be resolved isn't race; it's policies and procedures, and access, and communities, and processes. It's about interaction and communication, both of which were sorely lacking in this case. The race factor just made it more difficult because both sides believed, "Those people are difficult to deal with because of what they have been taught." Race was the orange, but it wasn't the issue. The community could get a person of the same race in that position who didn't change the policies, and that would be more frustrating, because now one can't even blame it on racism anymore. But if they got somebody else who is white, but who changes the policy and is more responsive to the community, that will decrease the perception of racism. And that will diminish the taproot or fuse of inequality and disparity. So even though people see the issue as race, it really isn't race at all. Another example of that is the issue of sovereignty, though I haven't yet been able to get the parties to understand this, and so I haven't been successful in reframing in this area. Sovereignty is a big issue with Native Americans, particularly when it comes to law enforcement on reservations. There is less and less willingness by tribal leadership to allow a non-tribal law enforcement to have any kind of role on the reservation. This also applies in cases of hunting and fishing rights disputes. One of the biggest obstacles to developing some effective collaborative approaches to law enforcement on and near reservations, and to hunting/fishing rights on and near reservations is that both the American Indians and state officials approach it from a perspective of, "Who has the sovereignty? Who has the jurisdiction?" What I try to get across is, "Okay, if you have the jurisdiction, or if you have the sovereignty, what is it you want to do with it? What is it that you want to accomplish?" If I could get them to talk about what effective law enforcement would look like, regardless of who has the jurisdiction and the sovereignty, I really think they could work that out. I totally believe that. But it is such a sensitive issue, it is very difficult to get beyond that. The focus has been on the sovereignty, because it's a symbolic issue as well as a real issue. Symbolic issues are very difficult to surmount. There was one hunting/fishing case that I was called in to, where the state and the tribe had been in negotiations but reached a deadlock. That's when someone called me. They said, "Well, so- and-so says Silke Hansen claims she can do this. Let's call her." "Oh gee, thanks a lot!" I keep telling people, "Why don't you call when you start these negotiations, not when they fall apart?" But I went up anyway, and they showed me what they had done, and I said, "I don't even want to see that." I started putting stuff on the white board. "If you have regulations, what are your objectives? What is it you are trying to accomplish?" And they were like this [she linked her fingers together] they absolutely agreed. So once they agreed on that, it was just a matter of determining what kind of policies each side needed to bring those objectives about. Both sides gave a little, and at the end of a very long day, the people at the table reached an agreement. That's the good news. The bad news is that when it went back to the tribe the tribe didn't buy it, because they said it was encroaching too much on their sovereignty. Another case in the same state ended the same way. It involved a similar kind of negotiation. The parties reached an agreement at the end of the day, but in that case it was the state that blocked the agreement. The negotiators went back to their superiors, who threw out the agreement, again on issues of sovereignty. So there was no agreement. But to me, it proves a point. You have to cut through and disregard the identity issues well, you can't ignore these issues totally because they are there. But the mistake that we usually make in most discussions is that we make racism or sovereignty the issue, and that is not the issue. The issue is, "How can we get past that to provide effective law enforcement?" "How can we get past that to provide good stewardship of our natural resources?" But the history of feeling attacked and encroached-upon and the perception that "they are just trying to whittle away at what we have, piece-by-piece," prevents people from focusing on the real issues. On the other hand, there is the concern that the state "should not give those people special rights and recognition." These feelings are so strong that it is very difficult to come from a different perspective. But I am absolutely convinced if they could just throw out that "orange" and deal with the "flavoring" and the "beverage," there would be much more common ground.

Question:
When you succeed in getting them to do that, what is the long-term result in terms of identity and symbolic issues and race relations? If they can cut through those things to resolve this incident, does it have a long-term effect on other incidents?

Answer:
Well, I think it would if it worked at all, but as I said in the two examples that I gave you, it didn't work. The people at the table were able to reframe the problem, but their superiors were not willing to do that, and the agreements were thrown out for political reasons. It was seen as giving too much or losing too much in terms of sovereignty and jurisdiction and control. So neither agreement held up. I do believe that had it held up, it could have provided a good model, a good precedent for how we can get cooperative agreements on issues like this. In fact, there are other states where there is less mistrust between state and tribe, and where in fact we do have better cooperative relationships. If you could either just not mention "sovereignty" or acknowledge that each of them has sovereignty, and that the two separate governments of two sovereign states are reaching an agreement, I think it would be doable. But there is so much tension and mistrust in this particular setting that it is difficult to make that happen.

Question:
What about other settings though? Such as, for instance, the principal who was accused of being racist, where you were able to reframe it in terms of discipline policy and hiring and that type of thing? Would that have affected the long-term relationship on race relations in the schools?

Answer:
It would, because the potential triggering incidents are less common, so the "bomb" is less likely to go off. Now there is a precedent of communication. There is a mechanism and an expectation that people will address and deal with problems before they get to the point of explosion. So it is the redress side that's handled more effectively. Once there is a precedent for communication, it makes a big difference. Probably one of the most positive examples of that is the same tax day facilitation. There were anywhere from 75 to 100 people in that room and at least as many when I went back for a second meeting. But out of those meetings came a sort of "community board" which included Hispanic and Anglo participants, including law enforcement people. They formed this board and I trained them in three days I gave them three days of basic mediation training. I remember one of the members of the group said, "Gee, you know, Silke, I think this is the first time somebody has come and said, 'I'm from the Federal Government and I'm here to help you,' and then actually done it." I thought that was a huge compliment at the time. That board still exists today, and is still dealing with problems involving the police and community relations. But they also began to look at other sources of tension within the community. This community started out as very mistrustful. There were a lot of accusations about how Hispanics were being treated by the law enforcement system. But now the leader of that system is working with that Hispanic community to deal with education issues in the community purely because people are talking to each other now. And they pay me to do that! It's great!






Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Now, in another case -- I'm just trying to give you all the dynamics of this -- I had a case where a police department collaborated with the INS to do a series of sweeps in a community on undocumented immigrants. They had done so many sweeps that they unknowingly swept in Mexican-American citizens, maybe 35 or 40 of them. They then faced a $35,000,000 suit. I met with both parties and I could have taken them to the table, but I told the Latino leadership, "I'm going to remove myself from the mediation because this type of violation is going to occur again until you get some kind of principle in law that prevents it. I think you have something to get the attention of the institutions. If you mediate this situation, there won't be any standard by which to terminate this kind of discrimination and I think something needs to be put on the books." I left them with that. You know, you mediate an agreement and that town has the agreement, but they were in the position to really put something in the legal system, in the courts that could sustain some guidance when dealing with undocumented immigrants and sweeps that effect U.S. citizens. At 35 million I thought they would get the attention of a lot of cities and a lot of agencies and I thought it was important to let the case go forward. Little did I know that they would settle this case for a meager $400,000. For me I said, "We could have mediated that!" I didn't know where the lawyers were coming from. Again, it's a judgment call that a mediator makes and I didn't want to get in the way of something that I thought was very precedent setting for the Nation and for their community. Those are the kinds of judgments a mediator can get into. A year later, the New Jersey State Police publicly admitted to profiling against African Americans.

Question:
So in that case you decide to withdraw even though they were ready and willing to go forward with mediation?

Answer:
Yeah. It wasn't exactly there, but I felt I had a good chance. Who knows?






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I didn't move so I got hauled over to the courthouse. So the sheriff had heard about it and said, "We let you come here to see what you could do about those commune people out there. You don't have anything else in this county to talk about." I didn't know anything about who they were talking about. I said, "I came here to see about those people who have been beaten in this jail. These are people who have been beaten and denied bond and the speedy process." "That isn't any of your business, Boy." I said, "Well, I'm going to make it some of my business. If I don't, somebody else will be here to see about it." And so here comes this justice of the peace. He said, "You got some nerve Boy, coming down here talking to us white people like that. You don't know where you are and I'll..." I said, "You're going to do what? You're used to talking to blacks from this area in the manner that you're trying to talk to me. If you come out here and attempt to do anything to me, I'm going to defend myself any way I know how. I can assure you that you will not be victorious. Are you understanding what I'm saying?" So this big bully says, "I won't let no n****r talk to me like that." I said, "You go to hell." I was scared to death. I got in my car and I knew it was time to go. I went across the street and got in my car. When I looked around there were two cars following me on that rural road, so I stepped on it and got across the county line from Sumter County. I drove right up past Andersonville Cemetery and I stopped my car and went to the trunk like I was going to get something out. They stopped when I opened my trunk. I stood right by my trunk as if I had a shotgun or something. I didn't have anything in there but maybe a jack or something. They sent word to me that I better not show my black self in that county again and what they were going to do to me. I said okay.



Julian Klugman


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The Koreans had bought out the black tavern owners. There were very few Jewish owners of buildings anymore, since the Watts riots. The Jews got burned out in 1965 and they left. The Koreans came in, and they had bought up over half the taverns, liquor stores, and little grocery stores. It took me a while to understand Koreans. Koreans do not fit the Asian stereotype. In many ways they're aggressive. They're the bottom of the social ladder for some Asians. Korea's become industrialized in the last fifteen years. Before that it was mainly agricultural. So the Koreans came into L.A. There are three hundred thousand Koreans in L.A. and about thirty percent of them have a college education. Some Koreans are very blunt; they're like the Israelis. They are very direct. They became shopkeepers. They didn't hire blacks because they are family run institutions. They moved in and bought shops in black areas. To run a liquor shop in a poor area, black or not, you're going to have protection. You're talking about central L.A. where at that time there were more murders than anywhere else in the world. You're talking about drugs and gang warfare; it's a dangerous place. Here is where they have their shops. I don't think some black customers like them very much, and I don't think some Koreans like the black customers very much. It took me five years to get into the Korean community, being very patient. Once you're in, you're in. They trust you, but it takes a long time. They had a dozen robberies of Korean stores by blacks. There was an incident that was the turning point, though. A fifteen year old black girl went in with her girlfriend to a store and she got a couple cans of soda. She got into a fight with the older Korean shopkeeper, and the shopkeeper killed her. The woman claimed she wasn't paying. Fortunately or unfortunately, there was a TV camera there. What happened was that the girl came in, she got cans of soda and she had money in her hand. She came up to pay and there was a misunderstanding. They started shouting at each other and the girl threw the cans. She did push the woman, but she wasn't trying to steal the soda. She turned her back and she started walking out, and the woman took a gun and blew her head off. It went to a jury and the judicial system assigned the case to a new judge, who was a white woman. This was her first case. Nobody else wanted the case so they gave it to her. They found the woman guilty of manslaughter and the judge gave her probation. She never spent a day in jail. They left and went back to Korea. There had been a black and Korean merchant group using my problem solving approach. I don't believe in just dialogue, but the human rights commission set up a dialogue group. I got the leader of CALPAC (California Association of Taverns and Package Liquor Stores), a black woman who was a real visionary. My idea was to get together with KAGRO (Korean American Grocers Association). I got the two groups together and I wanted them to sponsor a program for training. I got them to co-sponsor a project for two things. First, we were going to set up a complaint system so black customers could register complaints and there would be a system to deal with the Korean merchants who were really doing things wrong. The other thing was that we would train. The woman who headed CALPAC was running two stores. She knew how to do it and she had a lot to teach the Koreans. And the Koreans had a lot to learn about how you deal with customers. I spent over two years trying to do a whole series of meetings and we couldn't pull it off. There was a lot of resistance from the black community, but this woman really was a leader. She was pulling her group along. But behind the scenes, she was paying the price for it. There was a lot of anti-Korean sentiment. The other thing was that the Human Rights Commission was undercutting the project.

Question:
How so? Were they doing something specific?

Answer:
They had a Korean-black dialogue and the Koreans tend to respond to where they see the power is, and I couldn't produce the money. If I could have produced the foundation money to fund this we could have done it, but I could not pull it off; it was too risky. The county, through the Human Rights Commission had this other thing going, and they saw what I was trying to do. I could not do it through the county. So I had to set it up as a separate thing and they saw it as competition. But anyway, this trial had happened a year before which had a tremendous amount of publicity. We tried to work on that hostility between blacks and Koreans, but when that trial happened, that killed it. The feeling of the black community was so strong, because much of the Korean community would not acknowledge that there was anything wrong. They came to the defense of the merchant. It's true that it was dangerous to be a Korean merchant in a poor black or Hispanic community. But the woman had no right to kill this girl. They caught her in the lie and they had it on tape. The Korean community did not write her off; they tended to defend her. That just killed my effort. So it was the combination of the LAPD actions and the buildup of tension in the black community after the Rodney King trial, the fluid situation, the Korean- black thing. When the riot came every Asian store got targeted. It wasn't just Koreans, they went after. Unlike the later trials, we only had three hours notice. Later we had more notice. Nobody could believe the jury let them go. Maybe we should have known better. Also there was a vacuum of leadership in the LAPD, which became very obvious. I was on a plane when it started. As we were coming over LAX at about 6:00 pm, the plane was diverted. Usually they come over direct, but we diverted; we went further South. The pilot came on and said there were reports of rifle firing. That was the first day; that was April 29. I got a rental car and drove downtown and I set up a temporary command post at City Hall. I knew a woman in City Hall and she let us into her offices. By that time at Parker Police Center, windows were broken, and there were police cars burning; it was out of control. And of course the next day it got out to the Valley and it wasn't black anymore, it was Hispanic. First day was black, and there were some white politicos involved, but the second day became Hispanic. Unlike the Watts riots, within two days it was over a third of the city; it was even out in Hollywood. Somebody broke the windows of the sex store on Hollywood Blvd. You have to remember by this time L.A. had 300,000 El Salvadorans and 100,000 Nicaraguans, most of whom were there illegally. Crimes of opportunity, poor people who didn't have much, saw on TV that nobody was stopping the looting. It wasn't until the national guard came in the fourth day that the situation really came under control.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
These were their interests, and they covered the waterfront. They were very serious ones, primarily from the racial minorities, related to disciplinary actions.

Question:
That seemed to be racially oriented?

Answer:
Yes. Everyone agreed there was a disproportionately large number of blacks going to detention, there was no question about it. Guards said it was because of the way people behave, blacks said it was because of racism. This had to be addressed.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The main issue remaining was the reservation. The American Indians wanted a reservation within St. Cloud. They knew it would not be allowed, but in lieu of a reservation, they wanted to be able to provide their own Indian counselors when an Indian inmate was in trouble. So a guy could be taken from his cell and counsel his friend or the other inmate. The corrections officers absolutely refused to consider the matter. They drew their line. "Thatís our job, we are correctional counselors.Ē And the administration stood with them.

Question:
Stood with who?

Answer:
The guards. Now the Indians, I think, the leadership knew they would not get a break on their reservation. They knew better. But not because they didn't have an eloquent plea. And the sad part is that the guards or administrators were unable to come up with a single argument against the proposal for peer counselors.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

There was always racial tension with a white Regional Director dealing in race relations issues. I had to recognize that. You pay a price for that, and one of the prices is there is tension that exists between your own staff of civil rights or race relations workers. Should they have hired a black or Hispanic for my job? Well, they didnít. I was available and someone who was black decided I was the best person for that job. But, you should know that there were four or five people in that office when I was hired who felt that they shouldíve had a crack at that job. One of the prices we pay is having some tension within their own organization. So you have to earn your stripes, if you will, in many ways. Some of us did and some of us didnít. Some of us did with some staff, and some didnít with others.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
If you were dealing with a black/white situation, did you try to get a black staff person involved? Did you try to match the race of the mediator to the problem?

Answer:
Yes, depending on the problem and the circumstances. Iíve given you some examples where that was not the case, but some people came over the years and theyíve been working in this office for many years and have built constituencies. So there was a black member of my staff in Chicago who had a lot of rapport. He would go to the NAACP state meetings, which was appropriate, he was a senior person. He would get calls, sometimes directly from them. They would call him, not me. That was appropriate too, because they knew him and he had been there for them.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The Native Americans were the most resistant in that they don't verbalize their problems much, and you have to really spend time with them. So they were a player, but they weren't as significantly involved as the black and Hispanic students were.





Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

the police department and the rest of the city, aside from token employment, had no people of color. So that got bigger than just the cops "beating my kid up." There was an agreement reached that number one, the police would have such a simple thing as a minority person on call, both African American as well as a Spanish speaking Hispanic on Saturdays and Sundays in the event there was that kind of need. Beforehand, if a man who couldn't speak English was arrested, too bad. "We haven't got that kind of capability," they'd say. "We'll wait until Monday or get your attorney." But this way they could provide that kind of service.



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Clearly, we had to work the ethnicity out of it first, then the stature of the organization, how long they'd been in existence, because they were non-profit and volunteer groups. We were also interested in the type of leadership that they brought to the table.

Question:
You just said something very interesting, "You had to work the ethnicity out of it." How do you do that?

Answer:
Very carefully. First of all, by trying to bring equity to the table in terms of numbers -- numbers of the organizations. And one of the things that happened here and it happened in other cities, is bringing back to the table individuals who did not currently have a title with the organization, but had held a title before and were highly respected. We asked them to come to the table and be sort of senior, elder spokespeople and bring unity, and that worked very well.

Question:
Did you try to get equal numbers of each race, or did you try to do something proportionately?

Answer:
I think proportionate to the organizations who actually signed to be members of the coalition.

Question:
And this was open to anybody who wanted to be included?

Answer:
Correct.




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You're neutral for the process, but you bring certain skills and talents and in certain cases, even your race, and that cannot be neutral.



Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
When you have issues that are so large like racism or class economic issues, how do you incorporate that into the mediation or the resolution of the conflict?

Answer:
Well, the first thing, as you know, is that you've got to get people sitting down and talking. Getting them to the table is one of the most difficult things and it requires some skill. You develop skills by practice, and participation, and involvement in similar situations. You have to get them to realize it's all for the common good. You also have to be sure they have time to devote to the problem. This is awfully agonizing many times and so frustrating. A good deal of inner strength and inner faith is required to continue to work through the processes when they're telling you it's not going to work, that they're not going to change their position, that you're just going to muddy the water, and create some additional problems by getting involved. Don't let them deter you. You've just got to keep on begging them and insisting they've got to meet and sit down and talk. And it's the only way. You can't force them to do it, but you've got to have them realize that it's not going to go away.

Question:
"Them" means who?

Answer:
The groups that are involved, particularly the white power structure. I know the black people that have been coached and instructed to say certain things to me, to make me think things aren't that bad. But it's far greater and much more serious. They don't know that I've already done my homework in many areas and know a lot more about them and how they were elected and how they've been voting on issues and certain things.







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by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado