Standing at the pulpit Sunday afternoon in the sanctuary at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Westminster, UCC president the Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer lectured on what led him to study "white privilege" and become a "white ally."

Dorhauer, who in his lecture described a white ally as someone who possesses a real and authentic desire to be anti-racist partners to minorities, delivered his lecture as part of a two-hour discussion that encouraged Carroll County residents to start talking productively about what is needed to make the world a better place for all people.


"We should use our positions of privilege to creatively participate in ways that disrupt and deconstruct the current system," Dorhauer said. "We're committed as allies to question what we see, to create a safe space for conversations like this to take place and to give people the opportunity to examine how we look at race."

More than 50 people attended the lecture, which was followed by a panel discussion. The panel included Roxanna Harlow, Charles Collyer, Jean Lewis and Pam Zappardino, all members of Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality. According to Marty Kuchma, senior pastor of St. Paul's, the dialogue was meant to help people talk openly about race.

"With all of the violence going on, it's just time to deal with the issue on a broader scale. I think it allowed us to get a common language and frame of reference about what the issue is and how we might work together on it," Kuchma said.

Dorhauer said he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, watching football with his racist father.

"I live with a deep spiritual wound that occurred in early childhood, much of what I do is a need to heal that wound," Dorhauer said.

Dorhauer said what his father taught him about race made him feel shame and disgust.

"Overcoming whiteness as the norm is one of our main responsibilities," Dorhauer said.

Harlow, who is also the founder and executive director of the educational programming nonprofit Higher Learning Inc., said prior to the discussion that she hoped it would open a dialogue about the advantages and disadvantages of race, and how they play a part in society.

"Racial injustice is about all of us. We're in it together," Harlow said during the panel. "It's OK to feel frustrated, but never guilty. Do something to change it."

Lewis, who is also president of the Carroll County Branch of the NAACP, said she has been working with Carroll County Public Schools to employ teachers who represent all races in the county.

"Racism is taught — not something we're born with," Lewis said. "Progress is slow, but there are people in the community who are working hard."

Zappardino, who is also the co-founder of the Ira and Mary Zepp Center for Nonviolence and Peace Education, said minorities need to be better recognized in Carroll County.

"Our county is changing: We see even more members of other cultures and races moving in. Privilege should be a motivation to change things," Zappardino said.

After the panel, Libby Fuss, a member of St. Paul's UCC, said she felt like she could use some advice on how to be a better white ally. Dorhauer advised that Fuss not make assumptions.


"When you assume, it puts you in a different power construct. Start a dialogue by asking questions," Dorhauer said.

Maria Warburton, of Westminster, attended the event as a representative of Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalist Church in Finksburg.

"I came to see how our congregation can become part of the discussion," Warburton said.

Bill Kelly, a member of St. Paul's UCC, said he attended because he wanted to hear what Dorhauer had to say about white privilege.

"It was interesting because he brought everything right out on the floor. There was no concealing it," Kelly said.

Benny Russell, of Bel Air, said he was disappointed that the event didn't include more dialogue.

"As a black man, I feel they still don't get it. I learned that white supremacy is more layered than I thought," Russell said, adding, "They were well intentioned, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

"Don't sit back and say how bad it is, converse with some black people. If you want to understand me, come eat with me. Come to our communities, nothing bad will happen to you."

Harlow and Lewis, who are black, were the only nonwhite members of the panel.

Kuchma said he hoped the discussion was just the beginning of a series of conversations.

"We now know we can have that now," Kuchma said.