A white woman raised in the predominantly white, upper class community of Winchester Massachusetts, Debby Irving lived an early life sheltered from the realities of race and racism. Irving was first exposed to racial conflict through her work as a teacher in urban neighborhoods and was left feeling helpless and ill-equipped to engage in conversations about racism and efforts to combat it. It was a class she took in her 40’s named Race and Cultural Identity which helped Irving to open her eyes to the privilege she had experienced as a white person in America while encouraging her to question her assumptions about race. Her book, Waking Up White is the story of her personal journey away from racial ignorance and an examination of her own beliefs and culture.
Since the 1980s, Debby Irving has been working to foster diversity through arts programs in several capacities, including as general manager of Boston’s Dance Umbrella and First Night. She has also taught in public and private schools. Irving holds a BA from Kenyon College and an MBA from Simmons College. Currently, Debby Irving is a racial justice educator and writer dedicated to helping other white people to educate themselves about racism in America and the impact of their whiteness on their lives.
"I read Waking Up White in one sitting. To say I loved it is an understatement. It's such a raw, honest portrait... Irving's experience on display - warts and all - will help white people, who haven't noticed the role systemic privilege has played in their lives, start to see the world in a new way." - Jodi Picault, author
"Waking Up White is a wake-up call for white people who want to consciously contribute to racial justice rather than unconsciously perpetuate patterns of racism. With honesty and humility, Debby Irving shares her own story of transformation - a journey of opening herself to learning about the realities of racism and the unintended impacts of white privilege." - Terry Keleher, Thought Leadership and Practice Specialist, Race Forward
"Deborah Irving's Waking Up White is a courageous, insightful, and critical contribution to awareness of race in the United States. A virtual one-woman Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Deborah's journey from an 'ah-ha' instant to consciousness is a journey for all Americans." - Thomas Shapiro, author, The Hidden Cost of Being African American