Debby Irving discusses learning in public, talking about white racial identity

By Jen Cort

Jen Cort is an education consultant in the areas of equity, inclusion, diversity and justice. In this podcast, Jen opens up a "third space"— a place outside our familiar home and work environments — in order that we might begin to engage in some of the provocative questions that need to be addressed. Listen in as Jen speaks with some of the leading thinkers and doers in the field.

Debby Irving brings to racial justice the perspective of working as a community organizer and classroom teacher for 25 years without understanding racism as a systemic issue or her own whiteness as an obstacle to grappling with it. As general manager of Boston’s Dance Umbrella and First Night, and later as a classroom teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she struggled to make sense of tensions she could feel but not explain in racially mixed settings. In 2009, a graduate school course, Racial and Cultural Identities, gave her the answers she’d been looking for and launched her on a journey of discovery. Debby now devotes herself to working with white people exploring the impact white skin can have on perception, problem-solving, and engaging in racial justice work. A graduate of the Winsor School in Boston, she holds a BA from Kenyon College and an MBA from Simmons College. Her first book, Waking Up White, tells the story of how she went from well-meaning to well-doing.