Success Stories

Neighbors
Jamie and Victor, both teen boys, were visiting their friend Alex’s house. The three of them were roughhousing
in the yard, yelling and running around chasing each other. Pete and Doug, brothers in their twenties who live
next door, heard the commotion and went to investigate. After some questioning, Pete, who is white, chased and
grabbed Victor, who is African American. Alex’s mother was not home but Victor’s parents happened to have
just arrived to pick him up, saw the situation and came running to rescue Victor and Jamie. Police were called
but by the time they came, the situation had calmed down such that no charges were filed. Victor’s parents
subsequently filed citizen complaints against both Pete and Doug for second degree assault.
Attending the mediation were Pete, Doug, Jamie and his father Tom and Victor and both his parents Charlene
and Steve. Tom spoke first, grilling Pete and Doug about whether they considered themselves the
“neighborhood watch” (a reference to the Trayvon Martin situation). Pete was much more vocal than Doug and
defended himself by explaining that  there had been a series of incidents in the neighborhood with break-ins and
even attacks on persons. He insisted that he had tried to apologize to Victor and his parents right after the
incident but had been rebuffed. He apologized for having acted “on instinct.”
After some heated back and forth, with all the participants having a chance to speak, everyone took a break. The
mediators conferred and agreed that they would try and have Charlene speak since she had said very little so far.
Charlene spoke calmly and framed the situation by pointing out that the political and historical context was
heightening everyone’s reactions. She also expressed sympathy to Doug and Pete around feeling “unsafe” in
their own neighborhood and unprotected by the authorities.
More discussion ensued with the mediators reflecting and bringing in the teens and making sure everyone was
heard. Pete and Doug insisted that race played no part in their reactions and the parents continued to emphasize
the unavoidability of race playing a role, whether intended or not. The parents pointed out how much worse the
outcome could have been, comparing to recent incidents nationally. Victor and Jamie and their parents
expressed how traumatic the experience had been and how they would have to deal with the impact of it for the
rest of their lives. Pete and Doug listened and became less defensive.
After a very lively brainstorming of solutions process, they came up with an agreement which included
exchanging contact information, doing research on healing from PTSD, contacting resources at church and
counseling, having the Doug and Pete attend the Victor and Jamie’s sports events and even play some pick-up
games with them. They also planned to pursue ways to make the neighborhood safer, getting a better response
from the authorities to the difficulties in the neighborhood. Dismissing the court cases was almost an
afterthought. The session ended with handshakes across the table and heartfelt thanks to the mediators for
having the chance to use the mediation process.