Same Level, Different Sides

Tamra d'Estrée

Conflict Resolution Program, University of Denver

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 ???).

So, you know about John Paul's model, you can bring grassroots leaders together or you might bring mid-level influentials together or you might bring elites together, and there's something about having those kind of people from comparable status that when the people get together they listen with different ears. So you have people that are all professionals. Maybe they're all either academics or professionals, engineers, business people, that are at this meeting. And you have this person who is dressed like them, and in the American context that they're all operating in now is at the same status and level of respect. And he's talking about this experience where he couldn't speak his language and use his name. They perk up and really listen to something like that because he seems so similar. It helps to really re-humanize the other because in so many of these conflicts you dehumanize the other and you don't see that that's what allows you to perpetuate the conflict. So anything you're doing that re-humanizes the other can be a little chink in the armor that let's you think, well, okay, he had this terrible experience because of the way our language laws are structured or because of the way we don't recognize other people's languages in our culture, and he's kind of like me in many ways.

I think it helps people have more empathy for the actual on-the-ground impacts of oppression or structural injustice. I think it's some of the stories that sometimes people tell that then humanize them and their group for the other. It makes the other side stop and pay attention because it's such a personal story and they see the issue maybe in a slightly different way. On the flip side, for the person on the other side listen respectfully to you while you're telling your story about this, may have never ever happened before. This may be a very emotional experience to tell the story and have the other side, as represented in these other people sitting across from you, actually hear you for the first time.