Reparations Deserve a Seat at the Table
As a white woman of privilege, reparations to provide race and social justice gave me pause at first. Really, you just pay people off and that solves the problem? But as a mediator and as a human being, I know it's time to challenge my own biases. And it's time to urge others to consider reparations as one of the viable solutions to racial injustice when engaged in mediation or other forms of conflict resolution.
On a large scale, reparations compensate people and communities for something that cannot be returned. Countries pay reparations when lives have been lost, communities destroyed or rights violated. Like compensatory damages in a legal context, reparations are meant to return the wronged to where they were, prior to the wrongdoing.
One example is the 1988 Civil Liberties Act. This law made reparations available to Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes and placed in internment camps during World War II. Similarly, reparations should be an option to right the wrongs of slavery, Jim Crow laws, redlining and mass incarceration.
Some localities have already begun paying reparations. Georgetown University is one such example. Because they sold slaves in the 1830s, they decided to pay reparations to their descendants. And Chicago is another example. They passed a law providing reparations for hundreds of African Americans tortured by the police.  Chicago's law not only provides financial compensation to past victims, but also money for public memorials and mental health and education programs. Presently there is a bill before Congress to pay reparations on a national level.
In workplace or community mediation where race and social justice are at issue, reparations might be a proposed solution. A wronged party might want the organization to fund projects that benefit their community for example.
Through mediation and facilitated dialogue, people can freely discuss the pros and cons of their ideas. A good mediator will move the conversation forward by asking questions and encouraging the parties to explore rather than dismiss the possibilities.
The question is not whether reparations should be an option but how reparations play into the bigger picture of resolving the racial divide and providing social justice.
 Weiner, Brian A. “Sins of the Parents” Temple University Press (2005)
 102 Stat. 904, 50a U.S.C. § 1989b et seq. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/100/hr442
 Ta-Nehesi Coates makes the case for reparations in his article in the Atlantic Monthly. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/.
 H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/40
You’re working from home due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and your co-worker just shot you a condescending and disrespectful reply to your latest communication. Angry, you’re tempted to shoot back just as nasty a reply as you can think of. But you know better and decide to calm down and think about it first. So you carefully craft a reply that you think is assertive but not too strong. Whoa, back comes an angry response that now they are really ticked off. What to do? Forward it to your supervisor? What’s going on here anyway?
We’re facing a brand new world of virtual communication. Deciding to stop the email barrage and walking two doors down to talk in person may not be an option in these times. So instead try some of these things:
Sometimes it might feel like nothing works. Or maybe there has been a pattern and this is just a culmination. If so, it may be time to involve a neutral third party as a conflict coach to help ease the communications and put you back on the right road. Call or email me today. I have helped numerous people finally find the words they need to get back on the right track.
When she proudly showed her business partner her latest logo design after a long series of rejected attempts, Janice made a face and Sandra said,
“How can you not like it?”
“I told you before that concept doesn’t work for me”
“What’s with you???”
Janice, feeling her anger rise, turned her back and walked away. Sandra picked up the phone and dialed her spouse who listened as she vented her frustration and said once again “Maybe its time for you to get out before things get even worse”.
Is that the best way to solve the problem? Fight, flight, or give in are not your only choices. Escalating the conflict may end you in court, while quitting costs you both financially and emotionally, and conflict has a way of festering when its smoothed over. One or both people will start to recognize that their needs are not getting met and resentment will kick in leading people back to thinking that fight or flight are their only choices.
But there is a third way. Through mediation you can not only solve the problem at hand but learn skills for solving future disputes. Business partners, employees, supervisors and managers have all learned better ways of working through disagreements and conflict through mediation. Not only is the presenting problem solved, but the parties learn skills to deal with future disputes in a more productive way. Accord & Collaboration also offers training in conflict skills and conflict management to help people learn to solve problems in the workplace while maintaining important business relations.
Do yourself a favor and call 206-367-1994 for a consultation today.
Dee Knapp, J.D.
Resolving conflict by creating conditions that work.