This Wednesday we will discuss Waking up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. Please refer to the text for discussion questions.
Also, consider joining us for the following event led by Debby Irving herself!
October Author-led Class
When: Wednesday, October 4th, 7-9pm
Where: Arlington High School
What: Class led by Debby Irving called Waking up White (also check out Ms. Irving's website here)
How: facilitated by Arlington Community Education
Thank you to everyone who came out to discuss Waking up White by Debby Irving. Thank you for offering your perspectives and your personal experiences, even when it was painful to share. While there were valid critiques of the book, I think we all went home with the takeaway to humble ourselves and seek conversations with those who differ from us. I appreciate the point raised that Cambridge seems to have lost the blue collar class that Irving mentions, and that perhaps, like most of the country, we too are an example of the rich getting richer while the poor stay poor. Most of us on this list are Cambridge residents or from communities that pride themselves on their diversity. I think many of us walked away last night uncomfortably aware of how much work there is to be done. For those interested, I will send out notes following Irving's presentation at the Arlington High School next month.
And now, let me introduce our next book pick. As part of our quest to explore other perspectives in addition to solid writing, we are going to read Sherman Alexie's memoir You Don't Have to Say You Love Me for our October book club. We hope you will join us.
"I’m a Good Person! Isn’t that enough?"
Debby Irving’s talk at Arlington High School, October 4, 2017
Short answer: No.
Take away message: 3 calls to action and visit her website for resources, including a 21-day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge
She told her story -- grew up in Winchester, world was white, with Norman Rockwell images, whiteness is normalized; taboo topics included: race, sex, politics, religion; belief in the American dream was real -- people should work hard because culture suggests there’s a level playing field and anything is possible and for sure she knew immigrant families who could attest to this.
She said if that’s not your story then accept this: that we’re all exposed to information that says some people are more valued than others in our culture.
She reviewed much of the history she discusses in her book (including how her family benefitted from Red-lining and the GI bill and land grants that pushed indigenous people off; she described Manifest Destiny and Indian Boarding Schools) and notes she continues to learn. For example, since her book was published she (a woman who was a history major and has an MBA) learned about Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK -- and how its bombing was the biggest act of domestic terrorism before 9/11. Why had she not learned this history before? She wondered.
Now when she thinks about history she wonders whose perspective is she learning?
At this point she asked the audience what they were feeling upon learning all of this history through a racial lens?
Answers: disgust, horror, guilt, shame, sadness, anger, discouraged, overwhelmed, grief, uninformed, naive, devastated
Debby then said that when her audience is more racially mixed, she hears “finally” and “relief”, as in “Finally, someone shared the painful truth. Someone told my story.”
(Which I think only made her white audience last night feel worse, completely stupid and ill-equipped to know how to act.)
One of her points: whites need to hear this history from whites.
She admonishes: “For the people who want to “do something”, know that you aren’t starting a movement; you’re joining a movement.”
She suggests that we are in a second Civil Rights Era, where the first one was about laws, this era is about lies...and now is the time for truth telling.
Again, see above for Call to Action.
The Tipsy Mamas' Book Club is co-hosted by Corinne Foster and myself, though the spirit of our discussions is flavored by many readers.