Are there other important lessons that come out of your work?


Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I want to see at least a 30-percent flow, because it's these kids that can mix with all the different racial groups that communicate information and diffuse the tension in a school environment. Usually if you go to most high schools, you see clusters of Hispanic students here, African-American students here, European-American students here, Asian students here, and you have pockets like this all over the school grounds. Once in a while you'll see a couple of mixed groups. But you watch the language and the body language and the relationships, and then you look for, interlopers, African Americans, that flow to the Hispanic group and flow to the Asian group and flow to the European-American group. You want to see that kind of cross-racial flow. But those are the diffusers, and you want a certain percentage in a school environment, to make sure that everybody knows what's going on, versus everybody doesn't know what's going on, and they're really living in kind of a fear of the unknown, because it's all "tense city." They don't want to know, they don't care. If we get into a fight it's going down, and it just happens, it blows up all along racial lines. But if you have this flow, usually it means, "Oh, I know that guy. He's cool."



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

If you think about it, I've been very frustrated lately with our civil rights leverage and our due process in the sense that when you look at the state and you look at the federal government and you are hard pressed to find sanctions for schools that may be discriminating. There is very little muscle in these agencies to really say to a school district that you are not protecting the civil rights of your students. That all affects what we can do. We're trying to get mediation agreement, but some school districts have this attitude that "there is nobody to make me do that." That has a direct impact. I'm trying to work with the Office of Civil Rights, the State Department of School Safety with the State Attorney General's office to look at where we draw the line? Is there any muscle? The state can take over a school. It can take a school in trust over academic failure or mismanagement. But, can it take a school over for civil rights violations? I think that's a form of mismanagement. I think we need to broaden that term and send a message to the school systems that there is a level that is not permitted. The only muscle that is out there in civil rights now is a court suits. They file for millions of dollars, and yet, I'm told, the attitude of some school leaders is that it's not my money. We'll just pay them. They are only conveyers of public money. That all reflects on the civil rights attitudes and enforcement mechanisms that impinge upon the leverage that mediation can get parties to seriously take the mediation process and discrimination and civil rights issues.





Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Typically of me, I tell the story of the pig and the giraffe, a little story I learned when I was in third grade. They were strolling down the road one day, and the old giraffe was telling the pig how much better it was to be tall than short. And they came to this place of this beautiful garden, but it had this high fence and the food was hanging all over the fence. Pig couldn't touch it. And old giraffe stuck his long neck over there and feasted beautifully. "Now brother pig, I told you it was better to be tall than short." They kept going along that road and they came to another garden, where the food was not hanging over the fence. The fence was too tall for the fruit and the trees were set too far back that he couldn't stick his head over there. But the pig keeps running around until he finds a little hole under the fence. And old pig scooted in under the fence and went in and fed himself beautifully. And then he came out and said, "Now Brother Giraffe, I told you it was better to be short than tall." Well, the fact of the matter was, two facts of the matter. One was, sometimes it's better to be tall than short, but sometimes it's better to be short than tall. But the great fact of the matter is that together, they were awesome. When it was better to be tall, then the giraffe came into play. When it was better to be short, the pig came into play. And I tell that kind of story in talking to blacks all of the time. I said, "You know, when I was leading in civil rights, there are four levels of black leadership," and I talk about these and I draw circles. I said, "Number one is the so-called Uncle Tom." I said, "Don't ever sell the so-called Uncle Tom short. He can do some things that nobody else can do. And don't ever say he's not interested in the way of fellow black folk, because they accept all kinds of situations and dehumanization to perform his task, right?" He accepts being reduced to less than a human being in order to make his point. But all of the time, he's trying to get a better deal for his people and he subjugates himself to do that, so don't ever sell him short in that sense. Tom is the pleader. He pleads for the best deal he can get for black folk. He doesn't challenge the system, he doesn't do that. He just pleads for a better deal and more for his people. And he's to be commended for that. The next level is the moral persuader. That's what Martin was. Called on white folk to live up to their own definition of "We hold these truths to be self-evident." And I tell white folk all of the time, "I didn't say all men are created equal, you said that. And you made me believe it. And I sincerely believe it. But you taught me that. Now you're trying to tell me that's not so. It's too late now. The more the sweeter." The third one is the militant. That's what was going on in Memphis. Now, the good thing in America, all three of those seek in, and not out. The fourth one is the alienated radical. He doesn't seek in. He seeks the destruction of what he is, and the institution of another thing. But the blessed thing in America is that 99% of blacks are in one of those three categories, and don't ever, ever get in the business of trying to destroy themselves.



Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Any other lessons that you learned from your experiences that you think are valuable, either to you now, or to other people?

Answer:
Thereís one that I convey to students all that time, and that is, "You will make mistakes.Ē The question is not whether or not you make a mistake, itís can you recover from it, because you are going to make mistakes. I said Roger Fisher makes mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes in this business. Youíre dealing with human nature and uncontrollables. So, thatís one that I drew from my CRS experience. The other is a kind of faith in human nature Ė 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.

Question:
So when you say transformative, for you or for the parties?

Answer:
Well sometimes it was for both, but Iím speaking now primarily about myself. The ability to be in a community with a colleague -- we speak of trust, but we didnít 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 Iíve 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.

Question:
Is it something about the nature of that work that makes it more transformative than other kinds of mediation?

Answer:
I think so, because itís not gilded Ė if you want to use the model that we were discussing earlier when we first began this conversation. Itís not your kind of relatively dry, interests-based issues. Youíre dealing with really deeply-rooted values and human needs, and itís incredibly humbling. Another thing thatís 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. Iím always amazed by that. Even in the work that I do now, that isnít it amazing that someone, some group of people, have let us come into their lives to leave our fingerprints on what theyíre doing in their lives. As Iíve often-times said, itís 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. Thatís the kind of feeling that gets you up in the morning, all these years, to do that kind of work. Itís terrific.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Are there any other advantages aside from the biracial dimensions of having a team rather then a single mediator?

Answer:
I think so. The team is less cost effective and with our limited resources although it's preferable, it is often unattainable. Having a team helps the process go better. In our rides back and forth, Larry and I would talk to one another about the dynamics of what took place, what we saw happening, our different observations and what we could do. I think it helped each of us to process the conflict better.

Question:
Did you often find that each of you saw different aspects of the process?

Answer:
Oh sure. You get different observations and feedback. Just in strategies of what we should and shouldn't do two minds are better then one, especially when they both are on the same type of level on processing information and dealing with problems.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I just thought the interesting part of this case was that it was a higher education issue related to issues that keep coming up on college campuses and the process of dealing with it, which we constantly try to urge campus administrators to do, is that if they are going to work through these problems they really should have some type of ongoing dialogue, a communication process around the concerns of students of color. We just saw those problems this year down at Penn State. Right now we are organizing a region-wide conference on race and higher education, two days dealing with a cross section of these issues.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

But in a police conflict and meetings with the chief or administrators, the more information we have about the dynamics of the conflict, the greater the possibilities of a worthwhile meeting. I always think that in our assessment process when we're meeting face-to-face, authority figures give us little information voluntarily. It's that face-to- face meeting or negotiations that we want to have, if possible, between the authorities and the community. We're selling ourselves. We're making an assessment, getting his or her information, but we're selling a process, and uppermost in my mind is what do we really want? What process works out here the best?



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

It's in building relations. I think that's what we've always said. If our effort is really to be successful, the parties have to be willing to sit down and work through things and to use you as the mediator. If they aren't satisfied with one another, with their relationship at the end, I don't think we've really been successful. They may do things under duress, but if that relationship hasn't been developed, and communication and trust between the parties isn't good -- and I know of some cases we've had a sign off, but it was just getting through the process?then the mediation process has, in my mind, been a failure. I'm thankful that I haven't been in a case where we really didn't do the job. The whole idea of sitting down, I think, is an excellent process. It works out. I've seen it time after time. If they're not acting in good faith and keep stalling, then we have to break it off. In the communities where authorities and community leaders are going to be dealing with one another in the future, the mayors, superintendents of schools and police chiefs often just never had the opportunity to do that kind of communication that develops in the mediation process.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

With police, I think it's more the lack of an entry skill. With police, there is a reluctance to get involved. There is a defensiveness, especially when it's related to an incident of alleged misconduct. When you are on the phone following a shooting, for example, they will justify it. If you don't use proper entry, they want to cut you off. So it's a matter of being able to develop an entry strategy. The bottom line of the strategy is if there's an incident, you at least want to have a face-to-face meeting with the chief, unless it's something where we're just doing a cursory check and only want to touch base with the chief. But if we want to be involved, we want to be able to set up that meeting with the chief. The important thing on that is not to let them have an opportunity to deny the meeting. That's the first thing you want to be able to do. Entry is to get that meeting, and to get it there are several things you might do. If you already have a relationship with the chief, you're going to get it. As we get older at CRS, we're experiencing better relations with police. The support is coming from the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police), and other national police organizations.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

But basically, the entry process of making sure that we can meet face-to-face with the chief is important or we cannot proceed further. If you have a relationship, good. If you don't, you say, "Chief, I want to sit down with you about this incident. I am going to be in the city tomorrow. How's your schedule?" It's harder for them to say, "No, I don't want to meet with you." Often the chief will say, "What do you want to talk about?" You indicate you want to talk about "how you feel about what's happening, to get your point of view." So you put him at ease and you make it more difficult for the chief not to want to set up a meeting. So that's getting to first base, or half way to first. You're not out of the ball game. The important thing in meeting with the chief is to have more information and a plan of action. The conciliation/mediation process can terminate there at the first meeting if you don't have further information and a plan of action as to what we think we can do related to the problem. The chief will very seldom come forward with a recommendation, especially if it's not someone who has called us for assistance. He'll seldom come forward with a suggestion, "Well here's how you can help." The mediator needs to have more information because you've already met with the community, so it's going to be more than just the shooting that took place and his justification for it, or whatever the incident is, or "we're still investigating" type of response. We want to get beyond that as to what are some of the issues, what are some of the problems there, and how can we be of help.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

CRS has this opportunity to look exclusively at race relations and thus to constantly be a barometer for what's happening in the country and a force for trying to correct these forms of discrimination. I think the greatest problem this country has had is race and the most unfortunate problem is that the country has not been willing to provide the resources to deal with it. They really don't give us the resources. I think the vision of Lyndon Johnson has unfortunately passed. I believe he really wanted to address this issue and felt that it could be addressed and I believe it can be, but it requires a lot of leadership and resources to do it.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

It was about the third or fourth caucus when one of the representatives came up to me and said, "I think I have the way." She was the spokesperson of one of the tribes. I asked her what was it? "They have to tell us." "Tell you what?" I asked. 'They have to say, 'That's the way it is, you can't have them. That's the only way. You can't have the remains until we are done in two months.' They have to tell us."

Question:
Who was at that session?

Answer:
It was a caucus. We had taken a break and she had come and asked to caucus with Larry Myers and myself.

Question:
She wanted to talk to you away from the group."

Answer:
Yes.

Question:
Was she representing the group?

Answer:
She was a strong enough leader and we knew she had the confidence of most of the group. There was no doubt about it that whatever she said was going to go. She had that kind of influence. It was kind of interesting because we went to the institution and told them they had to say, "This is a non-negotiable! You have to tell them that those remains are not going to be available, absolutely, and that's the only way this is going to work. And the Dean of the Department said, "What?" He didn't want to take a hard position and feel like the institution was being dogmatic. They had been very open and cooperative and all of a sudden now they are going to say, "No...this is absolute...you can't have them for two months, and until this takes place, they're just not available." They were very reluctant to do that, but Institution representatives finally realized what the message was. The real message behind the option was that the Native Americans did not want to betray their ancestors. If they gave permission for the University to hold the remains any longer then they would have violated the trust of their elders and the spirits of their ancestors. But if they are told by the institution to wait two months, then it wasn't on them. It was the ownership of the betrayal that was important to them, and that was the only way we got through that impasse. It came through a caucus...and nobody really wanted to do it, but it was the only way. So, there was an agreement that there would be an extension. Those are the subtle things that made this case very memorable for me, because after all that impasse, sometimes it's just the little subtle, intimate way you say things, is sometimes more important that the whole issue. That one has always left a lesson for me. It was a special case.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I take a lot of notes. That's proven to be very valuable. I've heard of situations where disputants have said, "We don't want that mediator to come back out here." And I ask, "What happened?" "Well, the mediator didn't take notes." Meaning they didn't care. So I always take a pencil with me. Because people want to know you're really listening, and that you really care, and that you are interested in their issue, and that you empathize with them. I think you do that by a lot of the nuances that you give -- writing things down, asking questions, and paraphrasing them. Those are all the basic things you have to do, all the time in mediation.

Question:
You're always doing that?

Answer:
Yeah. I try to. Those are the fundamentals, to me, of a good mediator.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And usually, in all the demonstrations that I control, I always try to assign somebody to the leaders of the organization, almost like a shadow, because you know if anything comes up, he's going to make the decisions. All the information is going to flow through the leader, so having a conduit; you can keep the pulse of that demonstration. We always try to have eye contact with them, if not a shadow, depending on what they will allow us to do. We also, if we can, try to position somebody in a command center, or whatever the counter-operation is, or at least have him know who that liaison is.





Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I don't know of too many instances where we've had problems getting the community to trust us. That has never been a problem or issue. We almost go in with that type of an understanding where they feel confidence in the Justice Department. We always tell them about and refer them to other places where this process has worked.





Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

In the heat of crisis, I tell myself, this too shall pass, what's happening now can't last forever and we'll be back tomorrow, and see how we can do it again, give it another try.



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

In the heat of crisis, I tell myself, this too shall pass, what's happening now can't last forever and we'll be back tomorrow, and see how we can do it again, give it another try.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
Neutrality is strictly theoretical. There is no neutrality. You canít be neutral where you have vast injustices.

Question:
Do you portray yourself as neutral when you talk to the groups?

Answer:
No one expects you to portray yourself as neutral if you come into a situation where everybody knows there are inequities. Itís not necessary if you can project yourself as objective, understanding, and empathic. We were called upon to help communities resolve problems, and empowering is part of that. You could do that legitimately and appropriately without violating your objectivity or impartiality. You bend and you lean, but I think everybody understands that.






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

think about a mistake that you learned from, something that at the time felt horrible, but in retrospect you learned the most from, what would that be?

Answer:
Where's the boss button, I'm trying to really think.

Question:
You don't have to tell me the situation, just lessons learned. What should people not do?

Answer:
The one mistake being a male, and particularly a black male, is consorting with women at night clubs, bars or even having them in your room.

Question:
When you're on a case?

Answer:
When you're on a case that is so damaging, so damaging! Another thing is, don't tell people you're going to be there when you have no intention of showing up.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

If you're talking about Civil Rights mediation, conflict resolution, you look at all the symbols of cross-culturalism that you can find. You can try to identify them and it's gonna make your job a lot easier, instead of working with the frame, with some text book mediation.






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