UMFK presentation explores racial justice
FORT KENT, Maine – The University of Maine at Fort Kent will host a presentation by Libra professor and author Debby Irving at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, in the Nadeau Hall conference room.
The presentation is free and open to the public.
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,” he said. “We proudly host a global community on our campus and we look for any opportunity to broaden our scope of knowledge.”
Irving said, “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.”
In her book, 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 her perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners and tolerance. She discusses her own long-held beliefs about color-blindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, and 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. She includes short prompts and exercises at the end of each chapter.
“When I finally came to understand the way racism worked,” she said, “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 “Waking Up White” is available at UMFK’s Blake Library.
This event is supported through a grant from the Libra Foundation. For more information, contact Dr. Nicole Boudreau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by the Marketing and Communication Office of the University of Maine at Fort Kent.