Practical Advice: Candis Smith

The African American studies professor is co-author of Stay Woke: A People's Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter.

The inspiration for Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter came when Candis Watts Smith and co-author Tehama Lopez Bunyasi pondered the “cognitive dissonance” of seeing the Black Lives Matter movement emerge during Barack Obama’s presidency. “To have a Black president, and then have a movement that implies Black lives don’t matter in America—it was difficult for people to hold these two ideas at the same time,” says Smith, the Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professor and Associate Professor of Political Science & African American Studies.

Candis SmithStay Woke seeks to clarify the discussion around race. “People tend to talk past each other and use the same words to mean different things,” she says. “Our goal was to get people on the same page.” For those interested in fighting racism, Smith offers a few pointers—and encouragement: “It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are things you can do.”

It’s OK to follow: “There are organizations in your community concerned with these issues. Contribute to people who are already experts.”

Raise them right: “It’s never too early to talk to your kids. When they’re young, it’s about fairness; that can turn into more complicated lessons about racial inequality.”

Trust the process: “Learning about racism is like learning about anything else. People who do woodwork or quilt don’t just read a book and become an expert. It’s a learning journey that people have to go on.”