First, We Have to Listen – An Empathetic Approach to Racism

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         Many people say they want to talk about race.

 

         And people will state their position,

 

                  But first, we have to listen.

 

         Many say we have to act to eliminate racism,

 

         that we have to walk the walk.

 

                  But first, we have to listen.

 

         Many will take to the streets to talk the talk

        

         and walk the walk,

 

                  But first, we have to listen.

 

         The sacrifices and deaths of others can be told,

        

         changes in structures and systems can be demanded,

 

                  But first we have to listen.

 

         Without us dropping our defenses to facts so cold

 

         and cruelty so raw, our responses will be remanded,

 

                  That is why first, we have to listen.

 

Mel Mobley

2019 Copyright

The Effect of Gender and Race in Mentoring – Does the Race or Gender of the Mediator Affect a Mediation?

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Does it matter if the mediator is black, white, or some other race or ethnicity?  Or, does it matter if the mediator is female, or male, or young, or old?  You can find some answers and arguments about these issues quickly using a Google search.  The questions are timely, but the answers are often politicized. Systematic scientific research can provide a methodology to peel away assumptions, biases, and political positions on hot button issues.

As a sociologist of the law, I undertook with colleagues from Georgia State University a study of the effect of mentoring on job satisfaction in the legal profession, and the differential effect of the gender match of mentor and mentee on job satisfaction among lawyers in Georgia.  We published our findings (Sex Roles, Vol 31, Nos 1/2 (1994)) as the Standard of the Professions Committee of the State Bar worked to create the first mandatory mentoring program in the country.  John Marshall asked me to join the committee and with a group of dedicated, bright lawyers, the committee created what is now the State Bar’s Mandatory Mentoring Program.

One finding of the above study on mentoring surprised us:  whether one had a mentor or not proved to be much more important than whether the mentor’s gender matched the mentee’s.  Taking that finding and applying it to mediation leads to the question of whether any match between the mediator and one of the parties, or the lawyers, or the insurance companies, makes a significant difference in the outcome.   This is put a bit broadly:  variables have to be defined and operationalized, statistical measures have to be created, hypotheses articulated, and data collected and analyzed.  That is a long term project.

Accord Mediation, LLC, will begin to review the literature on this issue and publish the results of that study here.  We plan to move to a meta analysis and then either use secondary data, or collect and analyze original data, and test hypotheses.  If you have an interest in this research please contact me.

Mel Mobley

Transformational Conversations about Racism – A Need For Empathy in Mediation

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Use of racial terms provides a flash point with a quick reaction on social media, and institutionally that is differentially applied by race, but can be expected due to the history of slavery, personal racism and structural racism in our society.  Even so, this differential application of sanctions leads to feelings of persecution and banishment from certain social subgroups, and it causes shredded relationships, even among persons with long histories of friendship. No safe social space seems to exist for the discussion of issues such as race and racism from the many different perspectives that exist simultaneously in our society today.

Even with all of the corporate styled training sessions available for Diversity and Inclusion issues, a need exists for smaller conversations about race and racism. What we seem to lack is a place for transformational conversations, a place where people can come together for an hour, or two, and talk in small groups with a mediator or facilitator guiding the discussion so that everyone can not just speak, but be heard, and be heard empathetically.

Sides and Consensus – A Need For Mediation

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Today our society has sides staked out in vivid relief and information comes at us much more rapidly than in the past. This causes a retreat to pattern thinking (McLuhan, Kaufman) to be able to order the information.

A by-product of this need to order in response to the overwhelming flow of information is the formation of cultural tribes: staunchly conservative v. progressive. These tribes immediately swing into action on social media, and they seek power through institutional entities, e.g., political parties, legislative bodies, the courts and the administrative branch of government.

The social magnification effect of social media enables weaponization of responses to comments that cause a perceived and claimed injury in such a way that “free speech” provides greatly weakened protection so that even a disapproved comment in a private email that becomes public can cost a person a job, a career, and trigger death threats.

How can mediation help these social disputes resolve constructively?