Conflict Resolution in Communities of Color

 

S.Y. Bowland

Director of The Practitioners Research and Scholarship Institute (PRASI) and mediator, based in Atlanta, Georgia

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003


This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: PRASI is interested in inspiring, developing, and creating literature and resources that contain the voices of those who you might not otherwise hear. One very important method or process that we use to inspire this is relationship building. Relationship building is a very important element, in the sense that people have to know that you are interested in what they have to say, and that you will read what they have to say.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of obstacles that stand in the way of many practitioners being able to come and write about their work, or seek to do research around it, because of issues of power, dominance, oppression, and privilege. That is how PRASI came about, through the formation of a committee, and that committee gathering and putting together a proposal to pursue, and seeing how it can enhance and enlighten. And also, seeing if there are ways of bridging gaps and putting voices together that might not otherwise be present in conflict identification, conflict assessment, conflict resolution processes, and other alternative ways of knowing and being.

...

We began to imagine what it would be like for people of color working as practitioners, or for people working in communities of color, and we wondered what they would have to say to add to the knowledge of what a practitioner does.

Another very important element that contributed to this concept was that I also did some research around what exists in the literature that is often used in education and training, as it relates to the conflict resolution field. Often, when I was in the presence of that environment, people of color or others who felt marginalized would ask me, "Well, who are some people from my community who have a point of view on this? What do they have to say?"PRASI is also working on an anthology collection of writings on the topic of culture, race, identity, and other sorts of issues. One method that we have used to figure out what should be in the anthology is the use of conference calls with practitioners, talking on a regular basis about what happens in their practice and why, and their thoughts on it. It never fails that the people who participate in a call are pretty much all over the country. We might have someone in Portland, someone in North Carolina, someone in New Jersey, someone in Pennsylvania, someone in Georgia who'll join. And as they each talk, they begin to affirm for one another that they're not alone in their work or their experience. Sometimes, when you're working alone and you're having these experiences, you yourself begin to doubt your work or what you're doing because you can't believe that you're having this experience. We've been able to bring a sense of clarity to that, because there is a certain amount of insanity, I believe, and paranoia that is associated with culture and race relations. We want to doubt it or distance it, or we can't believe that it happened, or we believe that it is something that happened long ago. Or if I'm nice and I'm considerate and I'm helpful, how can I also be a person who carries along this thing that's been known as a difficult or a tough way of being?