A Bake Sale Taught Me How to Be a Social Justice Activist
By Inclusant intern Taylor Thomas
Prior to my first year in high school, I was mostly unaware of the kinds of social injustices that people of color, women, and members of the LGBT+ community face in today’s world. High school was where I was introduced to Winchester Thurston’s variety of social justice groups, including Black Student Union (BSU), GSA (Gay Straight Alliance, now GSSU or Gender Sexuality Student Union), and Feminist Student Union (FSU). I am fortunate to attend school with students who are not afraid to take the lead when it comes to combating social issues on and off campus. They helped inspire me, and taught me that our voices matter. BSU gave me the opportunity to take a stand in my own community. At my very first rally, I joined hundreds of fellow Pittsburghers in the streets where we successfully “shut down” Oakland in order to call attention to police brutality. Afterwards, I remember watching footage of our march on the news, and for the first time I felt like my actions could really make a difference. Even when we are not marching through the streets, BSU provides a safe space for students of every color to learn, and we take what we discuss to the rest of the student body. For example, last year for black history month, we shared a fact from African-American history with the school every morning.
FSU, another club I take part in, also helps with educating the student body. When I first joined FSU, I learned a lot about feminism, and how my feminism can be used to benefit everyone of all races, sexualities, and genders. To me, feminism is a movement that helps support and uplift all women, as well as one that dismantles a system that is designed to keep women and femininity down. Feminism, in my opinion, should benefit everyone. In other words, feminism should be intersectional. One of the best projects I did with FSU was the Intersectional Bake Sale we hosted in school. All of the prices were set based on the customer’s race and gender, based on the real world wage gap. While there were some who either ignored the sale or were angered by the price differences, we were able to have positive conversations with several students about how the wage gap is more than just 78 cents to the male dollar. The fact that “a woman only makes 78 cents to every dollar a man makes” is often thrown out as one of the only hurdles women face, even though feminist issues vary based on race, sexuality, and other factors. We wanted to highlight how racism and sexism can intersect, hence, the Intersectional Bake Sale. FSU is a fairly new club, but I hope that we will be able to continue our activity in the school community.
As a student, sometimes I feel that my options are limited when it comes to fighting social injustices. But working alongside students who care about the same things I do has taught me the importance of education and community. Simply starting a conversation with someone can make a big difference. I have found that many racist and sexist issues in my school come from ignorance. When these incidents occur, it is easy to just get angry. But experiences like my one at the back sale show me that taking the time to teach someone can create solutions to conflict, and anger and hatred becomes unnecessary. When I invite someone to BSU, or FSU, or GSSU, it isn’t about getting people to see what they’re doing wrong. Instead, I hope they come and learn something. I wish we could get all of the problematic people in the Winchester Thurston to listen, but that is not a realistic goal. Instead, we continue our conversation, and if even one person stops to hear what we have to say, we have made a difference.