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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Stewart-Williams, MDR

Dispute Resolution Services should be primary to the Black Community

Updated: Jan 25

The Black Community should embrace alternative dispute resolution services in every dispute or conflict that they may encounter due to the historical and continued bias mistreatment of Black Americans within the justice system. The laws of America were not created to protect or ensure justice for Black Americans. Originally America's judicial system was formulated and used to enforce racist laws, creating a caste system, to ensure punishment for the Black American. Even though there have been many changes and attempts in correcting bias laws and systems, there is still deep ingrained unethical practices and racial intolerance in the system. The system to this very hour is deemed corrupt. For the Black Community the judicial system is already stacked against you even in civil courts. Let us look at Family Court for example.

A Black couple decides to take their dispute to Family Court, so they can move forward with a divorce and determination of child custody. In doing this they have opened themselves up to allowing the Judge to determine their future. Family Court is a court of complete Judicial discretion. This means that the Black couple has placed their future, the lives of their children, and their finances in the hands of America's judicial system. Again, this is the same system that was never created for justice for the Black American, but rather this is the system that was created for punishment and retribution for the color of their skin.

Many Black families, going through the Family Court system, realize too late that they should have went an alternative route than to allow

the American Judicial System to handle their disputes. I hear daily the horror stories of children taken from both parents, the Family Court Judges ordering astronomical child support which ends in jail time for a father and now these days mothers, and ordering of thousands of dollars in fees that the parents could not afford. In addition, legal actors such as lawyers and family court evaluators drain families financially to the point many either are on the verge of bankruptcy or they have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to maintain rights. Family Court can also place you in jail and what is even more troubling they really do not have to explain why because its a "court of discretion." People forget that family court oversees the child welfare system.

There are many families experiencing atrocities regardless of color of skin in the Family Court system, but imagine going through knowing the system you are using was created to imprison you. The battle for Black Americans going through that system is much worse than other race counterparts. If I discussed the criminal justice system, that has more studies to reveal the disparities, but the reality is it is all the same. The judicial system was never created to obtain you justice, so stop turning to it for dispute relief. Every time you do, you place your self in the position of being turned on and punished.

The Black Community should embrace alternate dispute resolutions.

This means that instead of placing your determinations in the hands of a system that is systemically created to punish you for the color of your skin, you decide to handle your disagreements and settlements in different spaces that actually resolve your issues without depleting your livelihood. For example, child support determinations, if parties agree to resolve this issue outside the court system in a "mediated settlement agreement" then there are a multitude of benefits: it removes the stigma from the supporter, removes the imminent threat of imprisonment, ceases the negative reporting on credit reports, ensures monies meant for the child is not taken by state fees, and creates a building foundation between separated parents in effectively resolving conflict. There are so many different conflict resolution spaces without the use of a Family Court system which includes mediations, negotiations, community mediations, and arbitrations. Until I studied dispute resolution, I realized we are not taught as a people to handle our conflicts outside of the judicial system.

The first thing that many in the Black community will say when they have a conflict is "I will take you to court", but that does nothing for the community or the individual. These conflict resolutions (to me) have not been adequately promoted within the Black community, but alternative peaceful resolutions will help build community and collaboration. Alternative peaceful resolutions will assist in ceasing the fights among parents and family members. Conflict and dispute resolution at its minimum financially supports our communities by keeping money in our communities. Conflict is not a bad thing for if handled correctly can bring innovation and ideals of positive change. My people embrace dispute resolutions and stop relaying on a system that was created to punish you.

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