"White privilege," a loaded topic in the United States in the past, present and likely for years to come, will be the subject of a panel discussion April 14 at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 93 W. Weisheimer Road in Clintonville.

The presentation is sponsored by the Caring Team at the church. The group normally works internally to help with problems being faced by members of the congregation, but once a year, it seeks to address what it perceives as a topic of concern to the public at large.

"It's important in our congregation, especially right now when there's a lot of division in the community and in society, that we try to bridge gaps," said Karen Torvik, a member of the Caring Team.

"Societal Effects of White Privilege" will be presented by a three-member panel beginning at 12:45 p.m. April 14.

"This is a predominantly white church, and the people here want to help with the situation at hand," Torvik said. "We're trying to bring a topic that's pertinent. Honestly, we didn't know who to invite."

After some research, the Caring Team members chose Noel Williams, a community advocate and former president of the NAACP's Columbus chapter; Katelin Hansen, strategic-initiatives director and minister of music with Community Development for All People on Parsons Avenue; and Tina Pierce, CEO and founder of Working Through Obstacles Reaching True Heights.

"It's a great opportunity," said Pierce, whose for-profit WORTH offers training to school personnel on issues of cultural competency and how to better deal with diversity.

Pierce said her portion of the panel discussion would focus on trends in society, such as housing and food insecurity.

"The gap is getting wider between those who have and those who don't," she said.

"It is a delight and I am honored to participate," said Hansen, whose nonprofit organization formed in 2003 to improve the quality of life for south Columbus residents. "My understanding of justice is intimately linked with my faith, and racial injustice is at the center of that. It is one of the creation sins of our country, a country that was founded on stolen land and free labor. The church has a tremendous capacity to speak to these issues in a very unique and powerful way."

"I am honored that someone considers my viewpoint, my years of experience, as an opportunity to learn," Williams said. "I am grateful for that. They are doing what I tell to companies all the time: They are being deliberate and purposeful in wanting to educate one another on disenfranchisement, the infractions that have occurred. They want to bring about a more just community."

"We try to approach it from a perspective of systems of power and oppression in our society, and racism is one of them," Pierce said.

"The law can't get at issues of the heart," Hansen said. "That's where the church comes in. If you don't change hearts, racism will continue to evolve regardless of the next law we put in place."