This book review was submitted by Barbara Kemp, a member of St. Margaret's Book Club.
WAKING UP WHITE
And Finding Myself in the Story of Race
How would you feel if you were the only white attendee at a conference of black professionals? How would you react if a clerk followed you around a store, watching your every move? Do you believe every American has, regardless of race or social level, a fair chance of achieving if he/she works hard enough? Were you taught to be "nice" at the dinner table and avoid controversial issues?
Debbie Irving explores these questions and shares much more in her book "Waking Up White." Irving led a privileged and sheltered life, raised by a well-to-do family that left her unprepared to deal with real-world issues and culture clashes. In her professional life as an arts administrator working with disadvantaged minorities, she became aware her efforts to "help" were getting nowhere. In following her journey of self-examination of certain "truths," she discusses how easy it is for white people to make decisions that maintain and even strengthen racisms hold on communities.
"In policy after policy, act after act, the United States has reaffirmed its commitment to being a melting-pot society adhering to Anglo-Saxon standards, as opposed to a mosaic nation built on the diversity of multiple cultures."
Irving's account of her awakening is sure to cause self-examination in the beliefs of her readers. Most of us are unaware our white skin automatically makes us privileged . But it is not enough, she writes, to merely feel empathy toward people of color or their experiences. She offers ways to become involved in changing our belief system.
Irving's story is a challenging and provocative "must-read" for those who are willing to learn and change their way of thinking.