multicolor frame around black and white photo of Debby Irving

About Debby

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

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Testimonials

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

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 is a dynamic speaker and educator who engages large audiences and small groups. She is expert in placing personal storytelling at the forefront of discussions, moving beyond the head to the heart in how we learn about and discuss race racism, and anti-racism —Riverdale Country Day School

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

TED Talk

Individual and institutional racism and how they connect.

YWCA Interview

Why did Debby write the book?

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