#JPSPEAKS 005: A Discussion about “Waking Up White” with Author Debby Irving

Welcome to Episode 005 of the #JPSPEAKS: Social Justice & Inclusion Podcast for Higher Education #JPSPEAKS PodcastProfessionals! Today, I had the honor of interviewing, Debby Irving! Debby is a racial justice educator and author of the book, “Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.”

Below, you will find the show notes, a biography of Debby Irving, and Debby’s call-to-action! Enjoy!

In this particular episode, you will learn:

  • More about who Debby Irving is as a racial justice educator
  • Resources to use as a person who wants to learn more about their own awareness and knowledge

Debby Irving’s Biography:

“Debby Irving is a white woman, raised in Winchester, Massachusetts during the socially turbulent 1960s and ‘70s. After a blissfully sheltered, upper-middle-class suburban childhood, she found myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by the racial divide she observed in Boston. From 1984 to 2009 her work in urban neighborhoods and schools left her feeling helpless. Why did people live so differently along racial lines? Why were student outcomes so divergent? Why did she get so jumpy when talking to a person of color? Where did the fear of saying something stupid or offensive come from, and why couldn’t she make it go away? The more she tried to understand racial dynamics, the more confused she became. She knew there was an elephant in the room, she just didn’t know it was her!

In 2009, a course at Wheelock College, Racial and Cultural Identity, shook her awake with the realization that she missed step #1: examining the way being a member of the “normal” race had interfered with her attempts to understand racism. What began as a professional endeavor became a personal journey as she shifted from trying to figure out people whom I’d been taught to see as “other” to making sense of my own socialization.

Her book Waking Up White is the story of my two-steps-forward-one-step back journey away from racial ignorance. She continues to study racism and strategies for its undoing while working to educate other white people confused and frustrated by racism. She remembers these feelings all too well and am passionate about transforming anxiety and inaction into empowerment and action, be it for an individual or an organization.”

Debby Irving, Student Affairs, Higher Education, JPHigherEd, JPHighered.com Source: http://2leafpress.org/online/debby-irving-intro-what-does-it-mean-to-be-white-in-america/[/caption]

Debby Irving’s Book: Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race

“Waking Up White” is the book I wish someone had handed me decades ago. My hope is that by sharing my sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, I offer a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As I unpack my own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, I reveal how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated my ill-conceived ideas about race. I also explain why and how I’ve changed the way I talk about racism, work in racially mixed groups, and understand the racial justice movement as a whole. Exercises at the end of each chapter prompt readers to explore their own racialized ideas. Waking Up White’s personal narrative is designed to work well as a rapid read, a book group book, or support reading for courses exploring racial and cultural issues.”

Debby Irving TEDx Talk:

Show Notes:

Resources to Check Out:


Get out of your comfort zone. Pick one goal and do it!

What is your reaction to the above call-to-action? What conversations or thoughts have you had as a result of the above call-to-action? In order to build community around these challenges, share your reactions and accomplishments on your social media accounts by using #JPSPEAKS!


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