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Enrollment & Advancement Center • University of Maine at Fort Kent • 23 University Drive, Fort Kent, ME 04743

UMFK to Host Libra Presentation on Racial Justice

January 2, 2019

Note: this is an archived news release. As such, the information provided may no longer apply.

Debby Irving Libra professor, author and presenterThe University of Maine at Fort Kent will host a presentation by Libra professor and author Debby Irving, on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 7 p.m. in the Nadeau Hall conference room. The presentation is free and open to the public. 

Ms. Irving will discuss her book, Waking Up White, and how she used her white-skewed belief system to interpret the world around her. She will explore how she spent decades silently reaffirming harmful, archaic racial patterns instead of questioning the racial disparities and tensions around her.

“Recent history has shown us that racial tensions still exist in this country and UMFK is committed to supporting constructive and inclusive conversations around any topic with our students, campus, and St. John Valley community,” said UMFK President John Short. “Ms. Irving’s community presentation is part of a larger set of campus workshops that will take place with faculty, staff and students throughout the day. We proudly host a global community on our campus and we look for any opportunity to broaden our scope of knowledge.”

“While mainstream media often brings a good/bad, black/white version of events involving individual actions, I try to encourage people to bring more nuance, historical knowledge, and personal reflection to the issue,” said racial justice author and educator Debby Irving.

In her book, Ms. Irving uses her own life to explore the everyday systemic racism that goes largely unnoticed yet perpetuates long-held racialized belief systems. Waking Up White functions as both a “Racism 101” for white people and a rare exposé on whiteness for people of color. By sharing her struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, she offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As she unpacks her own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, she reveals how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated her ill-conceived ideas about race. She also explains why and how she has changed the way she talks about racism, works in racially mixed groups, and understands the racial justice movement as a whole. For white readers wanting to further their own awakening, Irving includes short prompts and exercises at the end of each chapter.

Irving’s story provides a context that allows white people to quickly grasp modern racism’s inner workings and enter into conversations with new awareness and skill. It is the book Irving wishes someone had handed her decades ago.

“When I finally came to understand the way racism worked,” she explains, “I spent a lot of time thinking about what might have enlightened me earlier. I decided it wouldn’t have been an academic book, an essay, or a book from the perspective of a person of color -- it would have been another white person describing their own awakening, with some humor, poignancy, and drama in the mix. What I needed was a memoir so irresistible that I would have read it even if racism weren’t on my mind.”

A copy of Ms. Irving’s book, Waking Up White, is available at UMFK’s Blake Library.

This event has been supported through a grant provided by the Libra Foundation. For more information on the presentation, please contact Dr. Nicole Boudreau at