What is the most important thing most white Americans don't know about race?
Is race real or not?
Are prejudice, bigotry, and racism the same thing?
Chris Rock, Oprah, and Barack Obama made it. So racism must be in people's heads, right?
I don't get the term white privilege. I know lots of white people who don't have two pennies to rub together.
When it comes to race I'm colorblind - I'm a good person. Isn't that enough?
Copy of Main Templates – Debby Irving (1)

About Debby

Inspired by my own two-steps-forward, one-step-back journey away from racial ignorance, I educate other white people confused and frustrated by racism by transforming anxiety and inaction into agency and action.

I’m a white woman, raised in Winchester, Massachusetts during the socially turbulent 1960s and ‘70s. After a blissfully sheltered, upper-middle-class suburban childhood, I found myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by the racial divide I observed in Boston. From 1984 to 2009 my work in urban neighborhoods and schools left me feeling helpless. Why did people live so differently along racial lines? Why were student outcomes so divergent? Why did I 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 I make it go away? The more I tried to understand racial dynamics, the more confused I became. I knew there was an elephant in the room, I just didn’t know it was me!



Irving’s presentation was shocking and extremely raw. It informed audience members and sparked a yearning for more knowledge inside of many.

—The Elephant in the Room at Springfield College

Debby Irving did a phenomenal, tailored presentation for our group in a virtual setting! Not every speaker can so seamlessly engage an audience both in-person and virtually! She is amazing!

—Virginia Association of Independent Schools

BIGGEST thanks for last night! I couldn’t have been more pleased. I love the conversations that were had and the questions asked. Your talk was absolutely incredible. I know that many seeds were planted and nourished for further conversions and action to dismantle racism and white supremacy.

—Old West Church Boston

Debby and Cynthia were very thorough in getting to know our organization, patient in answering our many questions, and the communication from set-up to the presentations was excellent. Debby did two presentations for our employees, and both were very interactive, accessible, engaging, and thought-provoking, pushing our equity and inclusion efforts forward in a supportive way.

Barbara Beachley, Executive Director of Organizational Learning and Development, Independent School Management

Your presence was so important for so many reasons. You shared what only you can in your warm, open, and welcoming way that engages and melts the icy barriers of apathy and fear.

Food Solutions New England

Debby’s story of her personal journey is peppered with historical “aha” moments that can’t help but grab your attention. Getting to share her voice with our donor community and staff was seminal to moving each of us further along in our collective journey toward racial justice and equity.

The Boston Foundation

Connecting with students and establishing meaningful relationships is the foundation of learning.  Understanding race in America, and being able to talk openly about race at a personal level, is a complex and challenging task.  Conversations with Debby helped us, individually and collectively, to start peeling back the layers of our experiences with race, and how they have shaped our perceptions and actions.  For that, we are thankful.

Jesse Coburn, Superintendent, Heuvelton Central School District

Thank you for inspiring us through your thought provoking and informative session. Your talk was the perfect primer for Maine Camps to think more critically about our history as it relates to the Indigenous people of Maine. Thank you also for facilitating a powerful conversation with Claudia Fox Tree and Erick Giles. We have work to do - and the three of you helped set us on the path to move forward. Thank you.

Catriona, Maine Summer Camps

Debby Irving's message can open eyes and hearts in a profound way.

—Andover Memorial Hall Library

TED Talk

Individual and institutional racism and how they connect.

YWCA Interview

Why did Debby write the book?

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