Reading Waking Up White

Suffield Academy’s faculty welcomed author Debby Irving to an online talk on October 29. Her book Waking Up White was shared by the faculty as part of the school’s ongoing and collective efforts related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Irving, now a racial justice educator and writer, tries to help transform confusion into curiosity and anxiety into action. As a white colleague and neighbor, she worried about offending people of color she dearly wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator, she did not understand why her cultural diversity efforts lacked traction. As a teacher, she found her best efforts reaching out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing.

I invite you to use my story to uncover your own, so that you too can discover your power to make the world a more humane place to live, work, and thrive.

“I can think of no bigger misstep in American history than the invention and perpetuation of the idea of white superiority,” Irving writes in the introduction. “It allows white children to believe they are exceptional and entitled while allowing children of color to believe they are inferior and less deserving.” She concludes, “Unless adults understand racism, they will, as I did, unknowingly teach it to their children.”

The author adds, “Understanding how and why our beliefs developed along racial lines holds the promise of healing, liberation, and the unleashing of America’s vast human potential. I invite you to use my story to uncover your own, so that you too can discover your power to make the world a more humane place to live, work, and thrive.”

Irving’s talk centered on awareness and education, emotion, and active resilience against systematic racism. Head of School Charlie Cahn said Debby’s talk was helpful in many ways, “especially providing historical information about systemic racism in areas including housing and educational access through the GI Bill. Suffield’s foundation rests on respect, diversity, tolerance, inclusion, and sensitivity. All of the efforts our faculty make to help dismantle racism and hatred make us better as educators and people.”