The Bernal Story
Mediating Class and Race in a Multicultural Community
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Syracuse University Press
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page
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A Note of Confidentiality
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About the Author
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AS WE HAVE COME TO EXPECT from Beth Roy, The Bernal Story is a gift to the practice of mediation and the wider domain of peacebuilding. I say as we have come to expect from Beth because her work represents a rarity within our literature. She combines the best practices of astute ethnography with the best scholarship arising from experienced and lived practice....
Part One: The Store of a Well-Fought Conflict
1. The Context: Exploring the Terrain
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SAN FR ANCISCO is a city of hills and water, of culture and political activism, of charm and innovation—and of conflict. Early in the twenty-first century, all those elements combined in one lovely neighborhood called Bernal Heights. The city’s branch public libraries were slated for renovation, a generous and welcome thing that nonetheless had generated heated controversy in Bernal. On the walls of the...
2. The Setup: Composition and Design
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I BEGAN by contacting the people on Supervisor Campos and Director Smooke’s short list. The first to respond was a librarian working at our branch. She offered me a tour, even though renovation was still in progress. As we walked through the building, her excitement mounted each time I praised what I saw. The building was wonderful. Wooden tables had been restored to their original grandeur. The...
3. The Beginning: Goals, Roles, and Power Relations
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ON THE MORNING of January 23, 2010, we gathered in the brandnew community meeting room at the library. A long table had been set up for us. Larry brought over some flip charts and easels from the neighborhood center across the street. Another table was filled with breakfast foods, coffee, and tea. Some of the arriving participants greeted acquaintances; several knew no one in the room and introduced...
4. Storytelling: Emotion and Meaning
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NOW WE WERE READY to begin in earnest. We asked people to introduce themselves and say what their primary reasons were for taking part. What were the goals they hoped the mediation would achieve? Answers fell into three categories: to heal emotional wounds, to understand better the history and meanings involved, and to resolve the question in order to move on to a “bright new look” for the library. Occasionally, goals people bring to mediation are mutually exclusive;...
5. Analysis: Getting to the Heart of the Matter
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EARLY THE NEXT MORNING, Darcy emailed me an anxious message. I called her, preferring voice to screen. Email is too flat a medium for conducting emotional conversation with any nuance. Darcy freely ran out her feelings: she felt guilty she hadn’t represented people well, hadn’t spoken powerfully enough about the “clean walls” position. In one week, 250 people had signed a petition in her store to remove the...
6. Negotiation: Swings and Crunches
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ONCE AGAIN, the time between meetings was productive. This time, I organized it. At the first meeting, I had grouped people with like positions. Now I proposed that small groups of people with conflicting positions get together to brainstorm alternative possibilities. I formed three groups of four, challenging people to work together with individuals from whom they were most distant. Their assignment...
7. Documents and Disturbances: Negotiating in the Real World
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IT TOOK TEN DAYS to reach consensus on a meeting time. I interpreted the difficulty of that process as a warning sign of impending burn-out. People were feeling, I thought, both tired and anxious. Although the group had already exceeded my expectations for the mediation by striving for a negotiated settlement, I sensed that few if any of them actually saw a way that might come to pass....
8. Consensus!… and Disruption
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NOW BEGAN an arduous process of negotiation and word-smithing. Tempers flared and calmed like the San Francisco weather. Daily, pressure to be finished swelled. Voices in the community reached us in a punctuated rhythm: What’s happening? Why the delay? What can we expect? On the political front, rumors amassed that our very supportive mayor might run for governor or other state office. He might soon...
9. Aftermath: Into the Community, Onto the Walls
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NOW THE WORK moved out into the community. Two days after the
final meeting, Mauricio posted a notice on his Facebook page:
This past Sunday, the mediation group met for the 6th session and another 3.5 hours of mediation. We have totaled about 17 hours of meeting time. So after 7 months of mural campaigning and...
Part Two: Theorizing the Good Fight
10. Turning Points
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HOW DOES CHANGE come about? What are the dynamics operating at those key moments when minds and hearts shift? I want to look more closely at five of those moments during the mediation that seemed to me to be pivotal....
11. Dynamics of Mediating Identity-Based Conflict
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THE NARRATIVE of the Bernal mediation is descriptive on the level of interaction. As people spoke honestly and emotionally about their lives, other people’s understanding grew, and with understanding came compassion. These moments of change were embedded in structures, however, that continued to exist. I think of “structures” as frameworks that reside both externally in the real world outside the...
Part Three: Oragmatics and Reflections
12. Summarizing the Model
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IT IS NOT ACCIDENTAL that my story of the Bernal mediation ends with a celebration of positive changes in personal relationships. The work I do arose from a particular blending of community and individual transformation. Called radical psychiatry or radical therapy, its premise is to place individual behaviors and feelings in a social context (Roy 2007; Steiner 1981). In this chapter, I outline the approach I...
13. Conclusions and Recommendations
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CONFLICT INTERVENTION as a profession has a very short history. Conflict itself, of course, is as old as human memory stretches. Traditions of intervention existed long before the days when money changed hands for the service. Grandmothers, clergy, wise and friendly neighbors were regularly called upon to help people come to terms in the midst of disputes....
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HOW DO WE ASSESS the consequences of an intervention like the Bernal one? Formal means for evaluation are hard to come by. What constitutes success? Is it a continuing absence of conflict? Or is it more that future conflict is productive, creating change rather than harm? In a world as complex as ours, one person’s progress may be another’s injury, so even concepts of progress and injury are complicated....
Cast of Chatacters
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Methods and Tools
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About the Author, Back Cover
Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 2 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2014