Debby Irving was raised in Winchester, Massachusetts during the socially turbulent 1960s and ‘70s. After a blissfully sheltered, upper-middle-class suburban childhood, she found herself 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.
In 2009, a course at Wheelock College, Racial and Cultural Identity, shook her awake with the realization that she’d 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 she’d been taught to see as “other” to making sense of own socialization.
Her book Waking Up White is the story of her 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.