Speakers engaged more than 50 people who went to St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Westminster on Sunday afternoon for the program Busting Stereotypes about Racism: Beyond Confederate Monuments and Racist Relatives.
The informational program — aimed at understanding structural racism and ways to alleviate it — highlighted local experts sharing the what they contend are the key ingredients of racism in America.
Professor of sociology Roxanna Harlow shared a definition of racism: A belief system that reinforces ideas about innate racial/ethnic superiority and inferiority, and is rooted in the ways that society functions.
Harlow said studies show that a black man without a criminal record is less likely to be hired for a low wage position than a white man with a criminal record, and a person with a "black sounding" name on a resume is less likely to get a call back. She also said that studies show there has been little change in hiring discrimination from 1989 to 2015.
"Racism, by definition, is structural," Harlow said. "It is imbedded in our social system. It is a routine, standard part of our social life."
Charlie Collyer tackled the history of racism and then Jim Kunz spoke about housing segregation.
One case that Collyer discussed took place in Baltimore City. When Professor Mason Hawkins, an African American, purchased a home in a white neighborhood in 1910, the backlash was swift: First, a newspaper ran a story with the headline, "Negro Invasion," and then, policies were enacted to keep African Americans from purchasing homes in white neighborhoods.
Professional educator Judith Jones visibly touched some members of the audience with photos of her father and brother.
"My brother, Monroe Saunders Jr. is one of the smartest, kindest, most eloquently spoken men I have ever known. His teacher told my parents that he should apply for a trade school and do something with his hands." She paused, gathering her voice. "My brother now has his Ph.D."
Pointing to a photo of her father, she shared that he was denied the opportunity to be valedictorian at his high school because of his color, yet was the first African American at his university to graduate with a 4.0 GPA in a doctoral program.
Jones said standardized testing is one of the atrocities of today's educational system — where questions are based on the experiences of a specific race of people, making it much harder for students who cannot relate to the examples shared, and that testing is an avenue to future opportunities.
Richard Smith spoke about inequities in the three main parts of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, the courts and corrections. Then, clinical director, Dr. Gary Honeman spoke about access and availability of health care and how it is affected by race and racism.
The Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma, senior pastor at St. Paul's wrapped up the speakers' presentations with information on the inequities found in electoral politics. He compared the program to a 10,000-foot helicopter ride over the landscape and encouraged people to refer to the packet of presentation notes that was given to each attendee.
"Even if we are nice to each other and stop saying bad words to each other and get rid of all the Confederate flags, there is still a lot we have to do," he said. "There are structural things we need to do to make things more equitable and just, like housing decisions — who can live where and the pieces that cascade from there. This determines where you go to school, which determines what kind of job you can get.
"And in the midst of that, is the criminal justice system. For instance, the penalties for cocaine are much less in rural areas than the penalties in urban areas. There are lots of those little, subtle hidden realities that we need to be thinking about."
The program was followed by appetizers and desserts with discussion, and a free will offering to benefit Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality and the Carroll County Chapter of the NAACP.
"One of the difficult issues is for people to understand what we refer to as white privilege," said retired St. Paul's UCC Pastor Jerry Fuss, who is white. "Many of us don't realize what it is like to be African American and to deal with the things the invisible prejudices that they deal with, and things that cause them to not have the same opportunities that many of us have."
Jean Lewis, president of the local chapter of NAACP said she hopes others will share what they learned at the event.
"When in casual conversation with someone, if they hear something [incorrect], they can say, 'Well, that's not true.' They'll have the resource guide they gave out today to refer to."
One attendee said she'd come because she has been on a mission "to do something."
"I grew up in the Jim Crow south in Mississippi," said Rosemary Scott. "Ever since I saw the light in the '60s, and with all that is going on in the country, it has brought me to a place where I am still looking for something I can do about racial relations. I need to do something," she said. "I want to be a part of the change."
Kuchma said he hopes the program makes a difference.
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"There are ways that nice people hurt other people without knowing it," Kuchma said. "People with good hearts who go out with no intent to hurt others still do and say things that they don't understand are hurtful because they don't understand how history has shaped the way the country is now. We need to look deeper at the ways racism is woven into our culture and our society, and think about how we can look deeper and make systemic changes."