Debby Irving: How White People Can Advocate For Racial Justice [Ep. 127]

If you only have two minutes, click here for a highlight from the interview.

Debby Irving is a racial justice educator, author, and public speaker. A community organizer and classroom teacher for 25 years, Debby Irving grappled with racial injustice without understanding racism as a systemic issue or her own whiteness as an obstacle to it. As general manager of Boston’s Dance Umbrella and First Night, and later as an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she struggled to make sense of racial tensions she could feel but could not explain. In 2009, Debby took a graduate school course, Racial and Cultural Identities, which gave her the answers she’d been looking for and launched her on a journey of discovery. Now, speaking and leading workshops around the country, Debby devotes herself to exploring the impact white skin can have on perception, problem solving, and creating culturally inclusive communities. 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.

Debby Irving.jpg

Some highlights from Ryan Honeyman’s conversation with Debby Irving include: 

  • Why it is important for white people to get involved in racial justice work.

  • The advice Debbie would give a white person who was interested in the “how” of getting involved in anti-racist work.

  • How living in a culture of white supremacy is not limited to the KKK and neo-nazis.

  • Why the “oppression olympics” of trying to define which groups are more oppressed than others is a road to nowhere.

  • Books, resources, and advice Debby has for folks who want to take the next step.


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LIFT Economy is an impact consulting firm whose mission is to create, model, and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life.


Andrew Baskin, Partner & Executive Producer at LIFT Economy, specializes in regenerative ag-related enterprise and impact investing that advances the health of our soil, food-system, and climate.  You can email Andrew at


Ryan Honeyman is a Partner at LIFT Economy and author of The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). You can follow Ryan on Twitter @honeymanconsult or email him