Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Book Review: America’s Peacemakers: The Community Relations Service and Civil Rights

Clinical Instructor Deanna Parrish ’16 reviews America’s Peacemakers: The Community Relations Service and Civil Rights by Bertram Levine and Grande Lum, calling it both “personal—and tragically relevant.”

“. . . . CRS works behind the scenes to provide free, impartial, and confidential conciliation and mediation services to communities, with the intention of “keeping the peace” and enhancing local capacity to respond to public conflicts more effectively. In perusing the book’s helpful appendix, a CRS Timeline of Cases and Significant Milestones, you may notice, as I did, that CRS was present at almost every event that contributed to your political or professional development.”

Even as she praises CRS’s work and relevance for modern times, Parrish exhorts it’s leaders to push against the bounds of the traditional ethical dilemma with which many in the field of dispute resolution wrestle—the paradox of “neutrality” faced by mediators and conciliators who also believe in racial justice.

“These heady times call for a more prescriptive answer. In the vast expanse of ‘better than status quo,’ CRS is too expert in conflict engagement, too connected to community, and too skilled an organization not to articulate a more specific, less neutral, vision of equality towards which we should all strive. Critically, CRS is also too unique to forsake leadership in imagining new processes for achieving those ends.”

Read the full review on the American Bar Association’s website.

 

Deanna Pantin Parrish is Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and a Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program.