Onaje Mu'id

 

MSW and CASAC (Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) with the Practioners Research and Scholarship Institute (PRASI)

Topics: post-colonial, reconciliation, trauma healing

Interviewed by Julian Portilla — 2004


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Q: Can you give me a brief overview of your work?

A: I guess you would say I'm a human rights worker, and I use every instrument available to me in every form and fashion. I've been working in the field of human services for over 16 years, and maybe half of that time in conflict resolution and human rights because I see the direct connection between human services and human rights -- that is, those who most need human services, more often than not, are oppressed people who, because of historical trauma, are in need of these services. Then when they come in to get those services they get blamed for their state that they didn't create. They weren't responsible for it, they didn't initiate it, and they are the victims of it twice in terms of the first assault and then the second assault of trying to get out of it. So I see a direct connection between human services and human rights and I've kind of done that in parallel, so that my human rights work is informed by the reality of people needing the human services, and the work I do in human services is informed by the principles of human rights. I am a reparations activist, because when people experience egregious injustices and human rights violations, what happens is that they are hurt and they are damaged, so understanding the relationship between the criminal, the victim, the hurt, the injury and then the repair. The repair is the reparation which has three parts: compensation, restitution, but also rehabilitation. And because of my human services background, I am able to do that. My work is around the area of historical trauma, particularly oppressed people of color and how they have been hurt over generations and how reparations are needed to help them in their repair to become whole. Conflict resolution is just a technique or tool to serve the bigger picture of rehabilitation.

Q: In the context of the United States?

A: Yes, I do most of my work here in the United States. I'm a former international commissioner for N'COBRA, The National Coalition for Blacks' Reparations, former NGO representative of IHRAAM, the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities, and I work with other groups here and there as well.

A: Is there a particular moment in your work that is inspiring in some way?

Q: I'll have to go back to 2001, the United Nations World Conference Against Racism. Something happened in my life that people of African descent really had a chance to witness or to participate in and I would also believe that to whatever number indigenous peoples were there at the conference, they all too had experienced. Which is what imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism tries to not only deny them the right of identity, but also to deny them the right of convergence, of coming together and seeing themselves on an ideological plain as well as a physical plain. Prior to going the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, I had felt that it had already been useful and victory had already been won because I don't get a chance to see back when people said, "Well, who speaks French, or Portuguese, or Spanish." And Spanish in Latin American terms of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Colombia. So the idea of having people of African descent there all at one time, and they are the interpreters through the dominant languages that were forced upon them, that was a liberating experience. And that was a highlight of my life, to witness that and to be in Durban, South Africa only because the people of South Africa were brave enough and courageous enough to struggle for their liberation. South Africa is not liberated yet, but because of their work we were able to be there in a hotel, where at one time you had to come into the country as an honorary white. I was in Durban, which was a resort town where everybody worked through the year, and that's where they would go and here I am sitting on the beach because of their struggle. And that was a high point in my life.

Q: Another story, we're collecting stories here, of work along the lines of reparation work or the link between human services and human rights work. Is there something that comes to mind as inspirational?

A: Maybe it was the idea I proposed to an international group that meets in New York. The UN has countries that are the member states, and they have NGOs, and the NGOs have different formations, and there was a narcotics NGO. That looks at the whole question of narcotics in the world and the laws and intervention. I was working with that group in the early 1990s and I proposed a group on drug trafficking and national minorities. I had some of the human service agencies in New York who work for drug treatment to come and talk about their experiences and they all concluded that it was genocide. That drugs were used as a political tool to dominate these communities as a way of control. If you have a community that is drugged-up or a community that is embroiled in violence because this is the only way they can make money, if we have a community that is de-stable then you have a community that is unable to defend itself and seek out social justice because it's trying to just run in the house and not get shot. The mere fact of having that convening that workshop for that international NGO. You know the UN has their conference with the NGOs on the side and I had proposed that, and that was a key moment of bringing the two sides together, the human services side and the human rights side. I need to find that video and send it back to people, so they can reflect on it an use it in their respective agencies. So that was a high moment for me.

Q: Were you able to get any insight on ways of overcoming that cycle? There is obviously not one answer, but did you find some insight?

A: Well people have to be reintroduced to themselves because as capitalism creates alienation, in general but more for oppressed nations inside of capitalist states so American is not a nation. When it uses that language it really deceives the listener or the inquirer because it's a state that has many nations that are dominated under the nation-state structure. The Anglos nation sought and achieved dominance and was able to capture state power and use state power to dominate other nations. In 1776 you have a social contract amongst the white landowners, but you also have anti-social contracts against indigenous nations and also the African nation, so the history of America is one of formal drawn-out written social contracts and simultaneously these two other anti-social contracts, and in that structure the state continues to do things in such a way that people don't understand their nationhood and they don't understand their group as being a social group that is best defined as a nation. So people are lost in someone else's identity, so how do you counteract drug use and drug-selling is getting people to realize who they are. Amical Cabral from Guinea-Bissau wrote a book called, "Return to the Source" and he talked about the role of culture in national liberation -- one cannot happen without the other. A matter of drug use and drug sales in oppressed nation communities is getting them to realize who they are, reintroducing them to themselves and their identity and with that identity therefore discover purpose and therefore discover direction. So substance abuse [treatment], if it's going to be applicable and affective in oppressed communities, it has to be more than a medical model, it has to be more than a bio-psycho-social model, it has to be a social justice model where people can begin to understand their reality in the total context of things, the historical context of things. Because oppression attempts to do three things: make people believe in the ideology of individualism, to isolate people, and at the end you can either implode or explode. The oppressor doesn't care because you have been negated as far as struggling for your right of determination. So how do you introduce the concept of oppression in drug treatment programs, and also since we're talking about conflict resolution, also let them know they have been primed to maximize contradiction in conflict, so how do you get them to use conflict resolution philosophy and skills to reduce contradiction in conflict so they can create harmonious and cooperative relationships? So I'm tying in historical trauma, how that has damaged ??? people and how that has also destroyed their culture, changed their culture, morphed their culture -- instead of it being like a mother and caretaker, their culture in fact creates high rates of homicide, high rates of suicide, that creates a ??? type of mentality, so it's transforming the culture so that people can transform themselves. But it starts with people transforming themselves, so that they can transform the culture, so it's a dynamic between the two. So if there is an answer it's in cultural restoration.

Q: You talk about this within the context of drug rehabilitation, drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation. Is that an area in which you've worked?

A: Yes that's the primary field I work in.

Q: That's a fascinating idea for using conflict resolution to make things more coherent; to reduce contradictions and make things make more sense, basically is what you are saying. How would that look like on the ground? If I show up at a drug treatment facility and there is this sort of integrated model, that has to do with cultural reconciliation or renaissance along with the conflict resolution model involved.

A: You give people an opportunity to express their conflict and let them know that it is natural, first of all, but give them ways, a safe environment, where you can have a group leader or facilitator of the group, where one person can say what their charge is or what someone did to them. And let them talk about how it made them feel and let them talk through what kinds of things they expect from the other person.

Q: By charge you meanÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â??

A: Charge in the terms of "you disrespected me." That's an accusation. You accuse someone of doing something, but you have to explain it. It becomes therapeutic because now someone is talking about their feelings. Talking about engaging sometimes an authority figure, so they are engaging someone they wouldn't normally. It's therapeutic, but also socially regenerative because you are learning how to do something differently, not just to relate to your feelings, but to face conflict and deal with the real issues rather than running behind the drug, using the drug like if someone pissed me off, I'm going to go get high. Rather than that you are really engaging in the real problem so you are creating the possibility of a real solution rather than always taking it on yourself. So having a group with a facilitator, conflict resolution becomes being able to say what someone did to you, how it made you feel and what you expect from the other person. The other person can say things from their side, but because you're doing it in a group therapy context, it's allowing other people to add to it. It's not just what you see, what you feel and what you think -- be it the person who was the aggressor or the victim who thought themselves to be the victim of aggression -- but you get in other people to give their opinions. One comes from the group more informed than when they came in because you have all these other opinions. It's really a mixed model of conflict resolution and also group therapy at the same time.

Q: Interesting. Would you have the victim and the aggressor, or I guess the two people in conflict in the same room at the same time?

A: Yes, they are right there in the same room. So one person would say, "This is what you did to me. This is how it made me feel. This is what I want you to do about it." And the other person would say their side. Because you have a facilitator, who is the mediator, the mediator is the one who is guiding the discussion and guiding the exchange so both parties can be heard and be validated.

Q: In the meantime people are saying, "Hmm, that's interesting because from my perspective you did this that could have caused him toÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?" You know, start to make some causality links and start to figure out what is going on. What about the reconnecting with your culture component? Where does that come into play in a program like the one you are talking about?

A: That would come in, in having classes about culture awareness. You give them the history of their people and their contributions to civilization. One of the ways oppression works is to remove people and make them a-historical. You make them a-historical, a-political and a-visionary. You try to remove the past so you don't have a historical chronology to relate things to and you don't understand why things are the way they are now. You make a people a-political by not getting them involved, by not seeing a necessity to be political and get involved in things going on around you. If you don't have any control over now or today, how could you possibly be in control over tomorrow? So tomorrow becomes a vision, but if you don't have a vision of tomorrow, that makes you hopeless and makes you willing to do anything to make you feel better in the moment because you have no other hope. So oppression tries to make a people a-historical, a-political, and a-visionary. So having groups devoted to cultural awareness would give people that perspective of the past and what led up to today. It gives them a sense of what's going on around them and they begin to see how they've been duped and bought into a system with all the myths and they now have allowed themselves to neutralize themselves by not participating in the political process to change reality and therefore the future becomes assuming your position, assuming your role in society to change society, because if you don't change society, all conditions being the same, your children will end up leading the same lives that you've led. And they will be in the same boat. So their children, which is an expression of tomorrow gives them impetus to move forward and face their direct challenges around their addiction and that gives them the force to overcome some of those addictions.

Q: Sounds almost like a temporal orientation. Here's where you are according to where you came from and here is where you are according to where you can go and where your kids can go.

A: Yes. So using ??? giving people a chance to learn and participate and to be co-facilitators, co-learners, not so much the commission and the teacher being in the dominant position, but co-equals and they become co-learners.

Q: Can you walk me through one of the cases where you found someone who seemed to be in an endless cycle of addiction and violence who came to that program, learned something about conflict resolution and learned about their orientation in time and came out with some sort of transformation?

A: Sure I can think of many but one in particular, an individual whose name I can't say, came in through the court system. He had committed crimes, sold drugs, been incarcerated before and had gotten in fights, and when he came in sought to hear that there is another way of thinking -- that he was denied a whole sense of himself. See when we go to schoolÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?If you and I were to go to school and go to like a dance or a picnic or something like that, and someone were to take pictures of us and we were to get those pictures back, it would be a natural reaction to look at those pictures for yourself. I wouldn't have to tell you to do that, you would just do that naturally. Why? It's something about the human spirit that wants to be affirmed to say that you exist, it's a natural thing. But when we go to school we're not taught that, we are not given back the reflection of ourselves so school becomes a very dehumanizing event. And who wants to go someplace and get dehumanized? Nobody. So after a while people start dropping out. If you look at the high dropout rates, particularly with African Americans and Latino Americans in the United States, it has all to do with the school system. They don't see a positive reflection of themselves. They say, "Well you're not talking about me, and if you're not talking about me, why am I here? I'm not interested." It's again looking into a picture and not seeing yourself. So they get disenchanted with school and they dropout, you dropout you do what other people around you are doing, you start selling drugs, so forth and so on. When this person was introduced to their history they started to realize how much he didn't know. And when that hit him and when he realized it was designed that way for him not to know, he got real angry. Then what do you do with that anger? Do you go out and be self-destructive or do you start to use it in a way where you can start building? So that person was concerned with his younger brother, he didn't want his younger brother to wind up the same way he did. So he wound up coming to the groups more often and getting more involved and this person became a leader in the organization in terms of advocating for this information. One thing led to another and this person graduated and is doing well.

Q: Obstacles to your work?

A: Bureaucracies that have been put in place as gatekeepers or certain rules and regulations. You know every organization has certain rules it has to follow and things that you can do and cannot do. Funding obstacles, not having enough funding, not having enough staff, not having enough equipment, not having enough money or resources to run the program or design the program or to implement the program the way that you want to. Having frustrations with the staff, having people resigning then having to train new staff. Liberation work is not easy work, no one is giving you anything to get it done. It's like being in a hole and you just keep digging and digging, deeper and deeper, but with all the obstacles, the strength is finding other people who are still involved in this work. With the truth will rise again??? It's like Martin Luther King said, "Progress is not inevitable, nor guaranteed," but there are enough people struggling to make things happen and that's my motivation. I use slavery as an example, during slavery my ancestors. How could they have possibly thought it would ever end? That was in the depths of hopelessness, but still in that, the only reason they had to live was that I can be here today and have this conversation with you. I was the motivation for them to endure what no human being should have to endure or entertain enduring. But somewhere in their depths they knew it would get better, so there is a well of spiritual optimism among my people and other oppressed people that allows us to endure the hardships because there is a tomorrow. There is something in us that says, "There is going to be a tomorrow," and will all these obstacles I too have tied into that well to know that things are going to move. My criticism of the field of conflict resolution is that it is an infant trying to do a man's job. I say that to say that the concepts are not mature enough. Conflict resolution as it is now, is good when you have a super power and that power is mediating the lower level entities that are responsive to that power. But when the super power, particularly when the state is the problem, there is nothing to oversee that state in order to participate in the principles of justice and the principles of human rights. So the kinds of conflicts that people like me have, people of African descent, indigenous people, where the state is the problem, conflict resolution falls miserably because how do you get the powerful to give up their power? Frederick Douglass said that they never did it, power never conceded without a demand, it never did, it never will. It may be a moral struggle, it maybe a physical struggle, but it may be a struggle because where there was no struggle there was no progress. So we know that since people won't give up power, we have to take it from them because that's the only way that they will move into another space. People become so frustrated with everything else they say, "whatever I have to do." Even though I'm a practitioner of conflict resolution I believe in what Malcolm X says, "It's the ballot or the bullet." You're giving me this choice, I'm not going to exist in this state any longer, so what do you want this choice to be? Do you want it to be a non-violent solution or do you want to make it a violent solution? My other hero is George Jackson who was incarcerated at the age of 18 for stealing $70 and they gave him 15-life, but while in prison he transformed himself into a political philosopher, writing the "Soledad Letters" and "Blood in My Eye." So I'm one who believes in peace and conflict resolution but I believe more in peoples' right to be free, self-determinating and to be liberated. I'm saying that the current state structures doesn't provide that for now and the field of conflict resolution doesn't provide that for now. So I will continue to participate in this field, but I will continue to criticize it for its lack of honesty in terms of thinking that it can solve these problems and yet it hasn't done that. For it's lack of being ingenuous around holding on to all participating in cognitive dissonance, where because of their certain benefits into the system -- working the university system, having a salary, having a house -- all these material benefits they get by participating in the system the way it is, they use that as a way of not making the field more radical in terms of dealing with these really intractable contradictions like the one right here in America with indigenous people and African people who never were a part of the social contract. Nobody pays any real attention to that, it's like, "Let's ignore that, and let's just not talk about that." That's really too intractable. It's not just a question of race relationships, it's a question of national oppression where nations have been oppressed and the Constitution will never work because it was never designed to include these people in it. These kinds of intractable contradictions are not talked about by the field, the field isn't devoting any energy to that. There isn't any money put aside for the people who were oppressed to come in and have those kinds of conversations. So in the lack of work and money and funding it's an endorsement of the current system because it's allowing a certain injustice to exist. So I will always be critical of this field. I'm in it, but I will always be critical of it because it's not authentic at this point, it's more opportunistic.

Q: It sounds like part of what you're saying too is that you can't solve a problem you haven't recognized yet.

A: Yeah, it was Einstein who said, "You can't solve a problem on the level in which it was created."

Q: It was interesting, I was just in here talking to Mark Amstutz about reconciliation and he's done a lot of work in South Africa, Chile and Argentina. Recovering South American from military dictatorships, South Africa from apartheid, Northern Ireland from a terrible war. When you first started talking about reconciliation, I was thinking it's something that doesn't really get talked about in this country, at least not in my lifetime. They may have talked about it after the Civil War, I don't know.

A: Yeah, right after the Civil War, the ??? compromise where Republicans and Democrats said that they could get along as long as they kept the black people in slavery. We'll call it ??? and move it to ??? where people won't be able to fend for themselves, we'll withdraw all the troops. It was reconciliation, but at whose expense?

Q: And between whom?

A: Yeah. So reconciliation -- African people, indigenous people have never been accorded the principles of justice.

Q: What I'm getting at is, is reconciliation even an option without having fully come to grips with the problem? Or is it that we haven't even got far enoughÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â??

A: Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?to define the problem. People of African descent and to some extent indigenous people have to be given the right to a plebiscite. Until we have a plebiscite everything is just pre-solution.

Q: A plebiscite for what?

A: A plebiscite to determine their relationship to this country, since we never agreed we have never given political consent to be governed by this country, even if they do treat us right, we're still oppressed. It begins with the principle of informed consent. We never were informed and we have never given consent to be controlled by this country. So until that's done, we can only have that done through an informed plebiscite. People being educated to what their human rights are, people given the protection and instruments to exercise those human rights, people of those nations to determine their relationship to the state -- until that's done all of this is just playing around with peoples' lives because you're not being honest in saying that these groups were oppressed and they were dominated by the state of America and they were never given the right to self-determination. You have to start with all the treaties that have been broken, so to talk about reconciliation is way ahead and you have to deal with political oppression in terms of people not having group rights.

Q: So even before you get to any conversation between the dominant Anglo state and the groups of color or indigenous groups there needs to be some work in terms of organizing and understanding the needs and demands of groups of color. What I'm referring to is the intra-group work before the inter-group work.

A: That's true, but it's not so much focusing on the needs of people of color, it's recognizing the criminality of the Anglo state.

Q: Recognizing is an important thing, but when you say plebiscite that's not a meeting between white people and everybody else. That's a meeting between people of color.

A: And the world, the world has to be a part of that. The world has to recognize this situation here as a one of domination and oppression. And many people around the world don't know that.

Q: Don't know that about this country?

A: Yeah. Because they see Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, people around the world have this idea that blacks in America are doing fine, there're millionaires, they're this and they're that. And these are so-called exceptions to the rule, but that's what they are, the mere fact that you can point them out so easily shows that they are the exceptions. So I don't think most people in the world understand the history or the nature of the political relationships in America. So the plebiscite is not just a national question, but an international question around the rights ofÃ?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?Ã?Â?in the UN you have about five or six different bodies and one of the bodies have to do with colonized, un-free countries, and that's where we fall under.

Q: Which means they shouldn't be called countries, they should be called nations.

A: States, yeah a state not a nation.

Q: Right but if you are talking about oppressed units, then you are talking about nations.

A: Yes, indeed. It's about Europeans from Europe going to Africa, kidnapping people and bringing them to yet a third continent. So it's an international problem, so when I talk about plebiscite I'm not talking about it in a national sense, but an international sense. It has to have international participants, international judges, international monitors to see the process through. It has always been an international problem, but has never been given the international status. And that's what our struggle is now, to get the status that it deserves and it's getting there.

Q: What's it going to take?

A: Like any other revolutionary struggle, it's going to take being connected to people around the world so they can see it and they can participate in it, but unfortunately, Martin Luther King said, "Riot is the language of the unheard." It's unfortunate that people have to get to that level of desperation, but that's how it works. You read about this all through human history, people get to a point where it goes beyond their tolerance and then it breaks out and now it's a problem. It was a problem all along but people wouldn't solve it until it became emergent. So it's going to take either intellectual recognition or it's going to take social violence. But it's going to get to that point eventually, there is just no other way, it's not going to go on forever.

Q: Yeah, there are some theorists who talk about maturity or ripeness. People won't deal with a conflict until it's ripe and a conflict is only ripe when parties feel the pain of that conflict. So if only one side is feeling the pain and the other side is not feeling the pain, they're not going to sit down and talk.

A: That's exactly how it works. But what's encouraging is that people are joining and linking hands in different ways. When I went to Durban, South Africa I met a lot of people from around the world and people are saying, "Wow, people around the world are still struggling." So you know that you're not alone in your struggles and it gives you energy and it gives you inspiration to keep going. And more and more we're going to continue to make those kinds of lines. One example is that from the World Conference Against Racism, the UN created what is called the Working Group on People of African Descent in the Western Hemisphere. Never before have they looked at Africans in the western hemisphere as one group, there were always looked at as citizens of particular nation-states, so you really lost the big picture and now the big picture is starting to emerge. There is a conference in Paris in December looking at the mental health consequences of slavery. These sorts of big macro-questions have never been looked at before, that's going to take place. So you see that historical traumas are coming to the forefront, post-traumatic stress syndromes come to the forefront, the consequences of oppression over centuries, these types of concepts and conversations are emerging and are giving us more realistic ways of understanding that which we're dealing with. In so doing, it is also inspiring minds to take that analysis a step further. So even though it's not visible or not very much visible it's still happening. There is still a certain kind of genesis taking place that's very encouraging. I've seen it evolve over my life and I'm 51 years old, and I've seen some wonderful things emerge. Oppression is still happening. When I was a young man, African Americans might have been 10-20% of the prison population and now it's like 50%. You know out of two million people in prison, we are one million and that count is going up. So even though I talk about some good things going on, the real objective conditions are worsening. I think that some way people are going to come together and struggle harder and get involved. Because people have been victimized by state terrorism, people being shot for carrying a wallet, Amadu Dialo, Rosario in the Bronx. So people who were never political before are now seeing how the system works and they are getting involved so fortunately there is a sort of activism that is taking place as a result of these heightening levels of oppression.

Q: What are some lessons learned over the years? It can be in the rehab work or in the larger struggle that you talk about.

A: I'll go back to cognitive dissonance, people with good intentions in the field of conflict resolution, what's holding them back is white skin privilege. And a cognitive dissonance that allows them to not see what is before them. In doing this they are hurting themselves because their humanity is stifled as well as the people who are direct victims of racism or white supremacy and oppression and of course they are feeling it the most. So the lesson learned is how do you give people exercises in overcoming cognitive dissonance when they identify the things they are operating from that allows the system to stay in place the way it is? So until that thing is chopped away with a pick, chopped away, people will find reasons to allow things to go forward. Reformism will not work, but at the same time Malcolm X has said, "America has the chance to have a bloodless revolution." So reformism will not work, it will take a revolution, so the question is whether it will be bloody or non-violent, that's the only question we are left with. Since people of European descent are in positions of power, and most of the people in the field of conflict resolution are people of European descent, the onus is on them to make that shift. They will be just as much a part of the answer in terms of this being a bloody revolution or a non-violent revolution. That answer is just as much a part of what they do and the extent to which they are willing to challenge themselves to deal with that struggle as anyone else who is not considered to be in the field of conflict resolution.

Q: Great Onaje, that's all the questions I have is there anything else?

A: That's it. In terms of last comments I just wanted to say that William Jones who has a Ph.D. in theology or philosophy, he has been very instrumental in shaping my views around conflict resolution and looking at the limits of the field, as I had said earlier. In Jones' works he talks about oppression happening at three levels of denial; the first level of denial is that it doesn't exist, once that you prove it does exists then the second denial goes to "I didn't do it, it was somebody else," once you prove to the oppressor that he in fact did have a direct part to do in it then the third denial is to put something in place that says it's about making a change, but in oppression change is insufficient. What has to happen is a correction of the conditions that formulated the hurt in the first instance. So you can change the back wheel because it's a flat tire and put it in the front, and move the front one back and you've made a change but have you made a correction? No. So what Jones has done is to look at oppression at all the different levels and to say that the first level is of support in that we have to eat something else to sustain ourselves, so out of necessity there is oppression. So it's a naturally occurring phenomenon in terms of one species having to eat, you're eating somebody up, so that's oppression, how much worse can it get than that. There is no real excuse for that or solution for that, not necessarily for everyone to become vegetarians, but the whole world eats off itself. And the second level, that of social and political oppressions are those that can be avoided, but it's making oppressors know that there is enough in the world to be shared and there is safety in protecting each others' mutual existence. So he talks about those kinds of things. The field of conflict resolution hasn't matured enough to talk that out in terms of other kinds of solutions. I think Jones is at the forefront of that, I don't think he's been given enough credit or exposure, but he has definitely shaped my perspective and analytical tools around oppression. And he has a lot of things that go into the model. One of the things is that in the world of oppression there are only two choices; one to sustain the oppression and two to fight against it. If you say you're neutral that saying you're for it because that's sustaining it and in power relationships that means it's continuing. So when we talk about mediators as being the third, neutral party, what are we saying? In the system of oppression you're really saying, "I'm sustaining it because I'm not doing anything to correct it." So you have a whole field that speaks of neutrality and therefore you have a whole field that is assisting in the process of oppression because it is not taking an active role. So there are some criticisms, but there are some emerging voices which I hope can be seen and create another generation of conflict resolution to take on these mega-conflicts. In my talk earlier, I was talking about national oppression and I don't know if I had said anything about racism. Racism exists a vehicle that is used to sustain a national oppression and that's what ??? talks about in his work "The Anti-Social Contract." So it's not enough to be anti-racist, you have to be anti-imperialist to look at these structural relationships to see what they truly are and see the different guises that are used to cover up what is really taking place. So yes, we have to understand and destruct racism, but beyond racism, as I was saying with the anti-social contract, it's about allowing the nations to be fully recognized as a legal entity and allow the people to grow in their culture so they can be sustained and revitalized. So cultural competency in the field becomes an important issue, but it's not just about cultural competency, it's a matter of cultural recognition and allowing that to be the dynamics to understand the people within, rather than just saying, "I'll let you eat beans and rice this day. I'll let you eat fried chicken." These are just visual things that we can touch and feel, but culture has more to do than that. It has to do with a value system; it has to do with axiology -- what the value systems are. So we have to go more than just show-and-tell culture, is what I call it, and really get into the questions of cultural self-determination. So thank you for my concluding comments, and I'm thankful for the project to launch this inquiry, and I'm anxious to listen to the other interviewees and see what they've had to say about these very important subjects.