My oldest, a boy, went to a public school for advanced children. He was, and is, a very smart kid and I loved that this school was also very diverse - every race was represented and not in the typical, suburban neighborhood way. This was a "school of choice." Children were chosen across the entire school district.
My children were raised in my household not to see race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. as "different." How? I guess it was just never pointed out to them but all children will eventually see differences. "Why is his skin dark like that?" one of my daughters asked me when she was playing with a neighborhood child who happened to be black. She was three-years old. "Just what color it is. It is just like how you have blond hair and he has dark hair," I replied. "Oh!" she said before running off with her friend again. She didn't seem to think about it again.
My son had two best friends - Jack and Darik. Darik had light brown, straight hair, green eyes, and a sweet smile. His mother was African-American and his father who was white. Jack had both African-American parents and had black, curly hair, dark brown eyes, and was the smartest kid in my son's class. They were great kids and my son never seemed to think twice about the nationality of his friends.
Noah was not a nice kid. He was very spoiled, pushed kids, hit them, whined, and seemed to feel very entitled. ONLY because of the facts I am about to tell you, and you will see in a moment why this is important, I will tell you his race - African-American. My son did not like this kid. No one really liked Noah and it had NOTHING to do with the color of his skin. He was just mean! He was a brat! He was a bully!
My son, Jack, and Darik avoided Noah. I was fine with that. Better than getting into a fight, right? Noah just could not stand that this small group of boys did not like playing with him. One day at the end of lunch, he cornered (literally) my son and Noah asked (insisted) if he could play with him. My son told him he was going to play with Darik and Jack. He was not mean (there were teacher witnesses to this) and just said he had already promised them and then ran off to find his friends. No big deal.
I have found that most people do not play "the victim," but sometimes they are correct. Sometimes people WILL treat them differently merely because of ex: their gender. I am a woman. It has happened to me. So how can you handle knowing that a party has some type of bias when you are conducting mediations?
2. Do not attack. Do not call the person "racist" or "prejudice." Remember, you want to react toward the action - not the party.
3. Ask them why they feel that way. Let them know that what they are saying is not productive to the mediation and discussions.
4. Control your emotions. As the mediator, be sure to control your own emotions. Remain calm. Do not reveal personal prejudices, thoughts, or details in an effort to "bond," "understand," or tell them they should "not feel that way."
5. Ignore. Focus on the facts of the case, ignoring the prejudice slant that was attempted to be thrown into the mediation. Ex: "So it sounds like she was angry because the fence was too short."
6. Use proper terms. If the prejudice party continues to use improper terms such as "fag," reply with politically correct terms such as "homosexual."
7. Educate. Understand that some people do not always understand politically correct terms. Someone might call a person "deaf and dumb" and not know that calling someone who is hearing impaired the term is derogatory and insulting. Ex: "'Hearing impaired' individuals find it insulting to be called 'deaf and dumb.' The proper term now is 'hearing impaired.'"
8. Facts, not prejudice. State that the facts are why the other party is upset. It is not because of their prejudice. Ex: "It sound like you were upset with her because she did not paint the room correctly. Not because she is a woman." Sometimes you can get an agreement even with the prejudice. The parties may agree to leave each other alone/ignoring each other (if possible) and/or merely base the agreement on financial aspects.
9. Apologies are powerful. IF you can get the parties together again once the prejudice statements are curbed and understood, an apology for "improper statements," by the prejudice party will go a long way. Don't always expect an apology to be given, however, and don't always expect the attacked party to accept such an apology. Sometimes the damage is done and the parties need to remain separated.
10. Conclude/Cancel/End the mediation. Sometimes you need to just call it a day. If one party is clearly prejudice and based on that will not budge, it is time to call off the mediation and let the parties hash it out in court.
ADD COMMENTS: Have you had a prejudice party in a mediation and how did you handle it?