#JPSPEAKS 005: A Discussion about ‘Waking Up White’ and Author Debby Irving

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:

“She 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.”