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Tai Simpson is leading a community teach-in about Critical Race Theory on Dec. 15.

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Tai Simpson is someone who works tirelessly in the community advocating for social justice and change. She’s a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, is a direct descendant of Chief Redheart and is known as “The Storyteller,” but Simpson also does work on issues regarding race, missing and murdered Indigenous women and intersections of oppression regarding marginalized communities.

From her website: “Tai’s academic background is in Political Philosophy & Public Law at Boise State University where she served as the vice president and president of the Intertribal Native Council student organization.” In the community, she serves as an organizer and social change advocate. Simpson believes Indigenous “old ways” need to come back in style. The old ways are principles on which many Indigenous communities build their social and political narratives. As an antiracism activist and community leader, she uses contemporary and traditional Indigenous storytelling to depict the lens of “old ways” and how it is used to protect the sacred, build strength in the community, and keep nature in balance.”

Simpson is leading a free community teach-in on Critical Race Theory (CRT) on Wednesday Dec. 15, 5:30 — 7:30 p.m. People can attend in person at the Boise Public Library! auditorium or attend virtually. Get more information or register for the virtual attendance here.

BW interviewed Simpson via email about what CRT really is, why many people seem so opposed to the theory and how people can help educate themselves.

CRT is something that many people oppose and yet, many who do, don’t seem to really understand. Could you please explain the basic concept and what it isn’t?

That’s the trouble, isn’t it? Critical Race Theory (CRT) is not a basic concept, it is a verb, it is taking action to understand the intersections of systemic racism and oppression with our criminal legal system. Many of us want to relegate principles and ideas to their simplest form, even oversimplifying. I spend a great deal of time identifying what CRT is NOT due to oversimplification. The consequence as we have seen is the willful misunderstanding of CRT. For the purposes of my Teach-In, let’s approach Critical Race Theory as the “core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.” (EdWeek.org, Stephen Sawchuk)

How does CRT translate into teaching and why is it important to pedagogy?

The purpose of knowledge is to grow it with as much depth and breadth as possible. Even ancient Grecian scholars built their philosophies on the importance of growing knowledge. CRT is yet another lens we can use to understand our legal systems in the united states. Many would argue that our legal system is devoid of bias, divorced from the impacts of race and oppression while CRT demonstrates, analyzes, and identifies the converse to be true. CRT is a legal framework engaged in post secondary education to develop depth and breadth of knowledge. It is one of many pedagogies adopted in legal scholarship as well as sociology and political science. It has no application in primary and secondary school. The subjects are too broad and varied in our current education systems. The willful misunderstanding and demonization of CRT in public school education further demonstrates to me that a teach-in is not only necessary but long overdue.

What will be the main topics you’ll discuss at the upcoming conference?

My focus will be on nurturing a clear understanding of CRT, identifying problems if we continue to misunderstand CRT, and offer resources for folks who’d like to know more.

For people that can’t attend, are there any resources you recommend?

Yes, there are. Folks should Youtube search anything CRT & Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. She is lead faculty during the African American Policy Forum’s CRT Summer School for the past two years. Her recent interviews throughout 2021 are approachable and accessible with regard to understanding CRT.

Are there any projects you have for the future or any other events that people should look for?

Carrying the emotional and intellectual labor to educate the community on the importance and relevance of CRT is a heavy lift especially in the face of the political climate in Idaho where anything related to science and knowledge is falsely construed as a “liberal agenda.” I feel a deep sense of responsibility to share what I know. I am a student of the African American Policy Forum Critical Race Theory Summer School. I live in Idaho, it is my political and cultural home. I will share what I know, then move onto empowering my Indigenous nation and Black relatives that live here.

As an activist, is there anything you’d like to tell people about how they can take the onus upon themselves to support, educate and facilitate action and change?

I don’t offer my knowledge or experience as an activist. I offer it as a community member, a neighbor and as someone with a vested interest in collective thriving and liberation. Everyone can contribute to expanding their own knowledge, learning how to dismantle white supremacy in their behavior, and invest in BIPOC businesses and organizations. The way we spend our money is a statement of our values. Support grassroots organizers, educators, and organizations. Assert the necessity of inclusive language in the human rights statutes of our state. I also believe in alternatives to policing and court systems to improve community safety. Each of these concepts can be Googled and further explored.

Q & A With Community Organizer Tai Simpson

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