Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

FNB, racist? July 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 1:41 pm
Tags: ,

I once went dumpster diving with the FNB chapter at my school. All we found was moldy lettuce, and went back to school and got drunk. I’ve been to presentations given by FNB folks multiple times including one by one of the founders. I’m always annoyed by Food not Bombs folks, they are generally the drop-out culture Crimethinc-esque “radicals.” The sort that are largely middle class and white and steeped in their own privilege, but refuse to deal. That said I found a rather angry, reasonable, and readable critique of FNB.

Food Not Bombs is a white supremacist movement. If you can’t see that you still have your blinders on. Fuck you is my response to white charity. All your romantic rhetoric about blurred lines between the servers and the served quickly enters the wastebin of reality with every chapter formed. For all those FNB chapters that rely on dumpstered food, I flip a finger to all you white college kids and middle-class punks hiding in drop-out culture, get your fucking privilege out of my face. Did it ever cross your mind that people of color cannot do as you do? Did it cross your mind that dumpster diving is a practice that comes with risks for people of color you know nothing about? And quit fucking up the dumpsters. Some people rely on them for survival; and boo on you that I have to point this out, but they shouldn’t be made to go to your once or twice a week “picnics” to get fed. Fuck corporations but fuck you too for controlling the underground food supply. White people, you’re still stealing.

It seems people also just assume that Kilwaii is insane (Funny for folks who read poststructralism and use that to deny racialized identities).

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36 Responses to “FNB, racist?”

  1. Laura Says:

    Very good points about dumpster diving and the components of FnB groups.

    I think, however, that I might be missing something obvious on the problem(s) with drop-out culture. Is it the eclipsing of a situation in which so many people find themselves struggling against, not by choice, while others who actively choose it are doing the eclipsing? Is it this and other things?

    If this comment is an inappropriate request for info when plenty of resources exist that I should be exploring instead, or, you know, just thinking about it for a second and stepping outside my own privilege, feel free to delete.

  2. Stephanie E. Says:

    I found very little “reasonable” in the post linked to. I got more from the comments from POC than from the post itself. Maybe if the author actually provided any actual evidence that FNB, which is a title any group in any city can take on for itself, is a “white supremacist movement” and made up solely or even mostly of racist “white college kids and middle-class punks hiding in drop-out culture,” I’d feel like he or she had offered something to think about. But instead, like I said, I found more coherent thoughts on the matter in the comments responding.

    • Elaine Vigneault Says:

      Food, Not Bombs “is a title any group in any city can take on for itself”

      That’s an incredibly important point. Thank you for making it.

  3. Anonymous2 Says:

    The statement referenced is full of anti NON-POC sentiment and is not warranted in an much as an anti-POC statement.
    Lets NOT consider some of the sentences as “Food Not Bombs is a white supremacist movement.”, “White people, you’re still stealing.” or “Fuck you is my response to white charity” as acceptable in as much as we wouldnt want the reverse if the word white is replaced by any other race.

    I will try to examine two of the questions as quoted:

    ‘Did it ever cross your mind that people of color cannot do as you do? ‘

    Yes they can. So go do it. Don’t bash people for trying to help others. Not every method of help will appeal to all or in the ways that only they will think helpful. Does that mean all NON-POC should stop trying to help? No. If FNB didnt help, then why are there lines of people waiting for a meal? Its not because FNB stole all the POC’s food from the dumpsters and therefore there are no food sources available. FNB does provide some real service. Bash enough non-POC’s helping with volunteering, donations etc and they will stop helping.

    ‘Did it cross your mind that dumpster diving is a practice that comes with risks for people of color you know nothing about?’

    Is the author stating that POC have something unique about their race or position in society that it is risky for POC that go dumpster diving but NonPOC have some benefit or priviledge to be able to go dumpster diving safely? I thought dumpster diving is risky, unhealthy and dangerous for everyone. I wish someone could elaborate on how dumpster diving is inherently more risky for POC as opposed to nonPOC.

      • Anonymous2 Says:

        Royce per your article on freegans-of-color, I thoroughly understand dumpster diving issues such as “being a representative of your race” and “harassment”. I will add I believe that this is probably not as much of an issue in bigger cities, where dumpster/trash recepticle diving and searching is common amongst many races. But I do have a question posted on your ‘freegans-of-color’ topic and it is off topic for this discussion but “So the semester ended for me here at Vassar, and as all the seniors moved out of their on-campus apartments they threw out a lot food.” So did anyone on the campus consider organizing end-of semester “food drives”? to benefit the needy? Because in a sense, this is what FNB often does from local restaurants and bakeries on a daily basis..collecting food at the end of the day which has not sold etc.

    • adam Says:

      Royce, thank you for all the great posts!

      Anonymous2, it’s great you have your own perspecitves, but its not so great that you’ve been dominating the comment sections for the last week or more. I think you’ve written twice as much as Royce who has kindly responded to nearly all of your comments. I’m surprised no one has yet called you out on that. (I used to do the same in the past, but as I’ve become aware of how obstructive it can be of diverse perspectives, I’ve tried to exercise more restraint).

      • Anonymous2 Says:

        Adam, It might appear that I’m dominating the boards, but I have only been responding to passionate posts. There are many articles where I dont care and havent posted anything. People have called me out on it. In VOC posts and a related blogs that discuss this board, I have been called a troll and a muthafucker ( I can prove this if you want )…for trying to engage, express my opinion, and learn more. Thats the perfect way to remove diverse opinions from the boards. Meanwhile, I’m trying to be polite and address the issues. As a long-time vegan, I’m trying to educate myself and learn and read about peoples opinions and see what/how people feel about the topics that concern veganism from a non-white perspective. Granted I’m not a succinct blogger, so If I continue to participate in this board, my responses will be shorter if at all.

  4. Jeannette Says:

    take this as it is.. I would love to hear what you think.. Yes FNB could probably go about it’s activities in a more productive way.. but.. what is the use of calling them racist going to do to amerliorate the situation?

    Some White people do things on the daily that display privledge, screw folks over and generally mess up things on a variety of levels for a large amount of beings….

    I am begining to wonder why do we (as folks of color who are really the majority on planet Earth– not the minority) need to continue to try to guilt some white people into acknowledging the fact that they are fucking us (and themselves ) which their general shenanigans..

    Yes some white folks will get it and others will give you rants like the ones above.. but constantly calling white folks racist isn’t working…

    As long as at the end of the day you get to rest in the same privilidge than you woke up in.. who cares if a few hippies and brown folks call you names..

    I am a fan of reclaiming power through meaningful action and vocab choices. I am fatigued with the idea of continually asking for folks to acknowledge that they messed up and still continue to do so.. Let’s focus on a solution…they will catch up when they can..

    would love to hear your thoughts..

    • Royce Says:

      I don’t worry about folks’ privilege, except when it has material affects on people, you should simply tell them something is fucked up, and they should correct their behavior. If not, fuck ‘em.

      I’m tired of asking too. I’m tired of telling. I guess it’s the myth of mass (that we have to gather a large amount of people to accomplish anything) that makes folks keep trying to fix other people.

  5. Jeannette Says:

    please forgive typos.. it’s late here.. and I am sleepy ;)

  6. Elaine Vigneault Says:

    I think it’s worth mentioning here that food distribution is often REGULATED BY LAW. Thus, in some communities, group dumpster diving can circumnavigate some of the legal issues surrounding organizing food distribution without a health permit, nonprofit status, etc.

    I don’t do FNB, but from what I understand, in many cases it’s simply a potluck, in part because of these food distribution laws and the lack of people willing to stand up to the law.

    My point is that the ire here is mostly misdirected. It’s not the FNB people who deserve the brunt of the criticism, it’s politicians and industry lobbies who make it difficult for poor people to obtain healthy food.

    • Royce Says:

      Why can’t people criticize both? This criticism was directed towards FNB, and I think portions of it are right on target. FNB claims to not fit the charity model of giving, and that it is instead sharing, but that power dynamic is not easy to get around, but folks haven’t spent time thinking about how to fix that.

      I’ve had events that had nothing to do with FNB where we picniced, and wanted to share food, and told people they could have some, and something that informal also had a bit of the dynamic of giving.

      Also dumpster-diving is the source of food for some people who are stuck at the very bottom of our social and economic hierarchies, and partially thanks to freegan divers dumpsters are becoming harder and harder to find– replaced by compactors. This is a huge deal in some ways.

  7. Anonymous 2 Says:

    Ahhh I see some my comments are being deleted. Ok… well
    the reference quoted is only some of a much bigger article which I just read. The author also states “If you want to use your privilege and dumpster dive, fine, but respect that other people use those dumpsters too, people who may not share your experience of the practice and its risks; and if you really want to “help,” once you’ve dumpstered or made arrangements with a food distro, give up that food and power over its distribution to the community and let people of color decide what happens to it. Accept no credit and be fucking reliable. Seriously yo.”

    So this person wants FNB to just be collectors of food to be handed over to a different distribution channel?. THat is not what FNB does ( they also cook, prepare the foods ) and do other things..and have some credibility within the foodbank communities. If this person is so mad /bitter about ‘white’ organizations collecting food, then fine..and that person should start his own POC-based food distribution channel and stop making statements about FNB.

    • Royce Says:

      Some folks don’t do well with critique. Including folks who think they are saving the world. Of course he isn’t very popular.

      Also if your comments are getting deleted that was an accident.

      • Anonymous 2 Says:

        No they were not getting deleted. I realized, there was just web-browser delay and cacheing, no deletions …Sorry about the confusion.

        I did amend the repost though as I spent time reading all of the comments on the the original board of where the article was posted and basically added “if you read the original article, many APOC and POC also make comments against the authors statements. This article is really bringing out people’s contentions on that site. The author does not seem to popular on that website board today.”

  8. prof susurro Says:

    I remember watching a news report about FNB dumpster diving 17 years ago. I watched privileged white kids taking food out of the dumpsters and railing at the reporter about over-consumption. In the background homeless people walked by invisible to both reporter and “activist”. All I could think was, while you are eating that sandwhich, the homeless guy who needs it to survive will go hungry. While you are tucked in back @ your dorm tonight, that homeless girl maybe doing things she would not normally to stay warm. And nothing you said or did, did anything to make their lives better. to confront the inequalities that make it ok for ppl to be vilified and shunned for not having a home or food. Worst of all, what you did today, what you are patting yourself on the back for, is make it worse by eating the food the ppl you don’t even see around you need b/c you, with your access to the media, are too caught up in ideas of revolution, to notice the revolution needed right in front of you.

    I never took them seriously b/c of that report. And I probably never will.

    • AoT Says:

      But the whole point of FNB is to feed the homeless. If they aren’t doing that then they’re doing it straight up wrong. I can see what you are talking about in a lot of white traveling kids who dumpster dive and don’t do FNB, but the point of FNB is to distribute the food the dumpster.

  9. Anonymous 2 Says:

    The reference quoted is only some of a much bigger article which I just read. The author also states “If you want to use your privilege and dumpster dive, fine, but respect that other people use those dumpsters too, people who may not share your experience of the practice and its risks; and if you really want to “help,” once you’ve dumpstered or made arrangements with a food distro, give up that food and power over its distribution to the community and let people of color decide what happens to it. Accept no credit and be fucking reliable. Seriously yo.”

    So this person wants FNB to just be collectors of food to be handed over to a different distribution channel?. THat is not what FNB does ( they also cook, prepare the foods ) and do other things..and have some credibility within the foodbank communities. If this person is so mad /bitter about ‘white’ organizations collecting food, then fine..and that person should start his own POC-based food distribution channel and stop making statements about FNB. Also if you read the original article, many APOC and POC also make comments against the authors statements. The author does not seem to popular on that website board today.

    • C Says:

      “I’m always annoyed by Foon not Bombs folks, they are generally the drop-out culture Crimethinc-esque “radicals.” The sort that are largely middle class and white and steeped in their own privilege, but refuse to deal.”

      There you go with your generalizations. I know FNB folks who do not fit that description. So what? Anecdotal is anecdotal is anecdotal.
      How are these white folks you speak of not dealing with their privilege by gathering community support to help other folks in need? If they don’t “drop out” how do they check their privilege at all. By “staying in” and never living outside their box of white privilege? By merely blogging about it? Or reading Tim Wise (the anti-vegan) books?
      FNB in my area gather resources through volunteers who obtain and prepare meals to give out for free every weekend in city center. It’s never “a potluck”. I don’t see how that’s not helpful and I certainly don’t see how that’s WHITE SUPREMACIST, especially when everyone involved in not white. Of course there are many chapters of FNB and I’m certain some are more privileged and less effective than others.

      • Royce Says:

        Your quote is only of what I feel. I never said all FNB folks are anything, but about my feelings from my experiences with them, and what the ones I’ve interacted with are like.

        Dropping out doesn’t check privilege.

        So you have better FNB experiences than I have. Congrats. Also I never called FNB a white supremacist group. But I think that many/most FNB groups replicates the structures of society in a lot of ways, and when you live in a white supremacist world it is pretty easy to see how Kilwaii would say that.

  10. Alyson Says:

    Royce,

    Reposting and calling that rant reasonable is plummeting the credibility of the usually enlightened conversation on this blog. In any context, calling one group of people anything is messed up. The rant has some valid points, but totally shreds any truth by it’s obnoxious speech/swearing/calling white people thieves. Royce – I’ll be skipping over your posts in the future. Dialogue on serious topics should be able to get by without saying “eff you.” Not exactly worthwhile criticism in my view.

    • Royce Says:

      Part of me called it reasonable in an effort to try and rile people up. Part of me called it reasonable because I think it is reasonable for him to be angry. It’s reasonable for him to have his concerns, and it isn’t quite so reasonable to just dismiss them as far as I’m concerned.

      Truthfully, I don’t give a shit if you don’t like swearing/obnoxious speech (whatever that is). Also if you can’t tell the difference between Kilwaii and me, I don’t really care if you read my posts in the future or not.

      Right now it seems like your speech is obnoxious. You want to punish me by not reading what I write, because I tainted the usually “enlightened” speech (I’ll have to change my tactics– enlightenment sucks) of us good, reasonable people to something angry and raw. Maybe I don’t want you reading my posts either.

      • Crys T Says:

        “The rant has some valid points, but totally shreds any truth by it’s obnoxious speech/swearing/calling white people thieves… Dialogue on serious topics should be able to get by without saying “eff you.””

        Oh, here we go again: the criticism of tone and insistence on “politeness,” no matter how painful or outrageous the topic at hand.

        I do suspect that the pearl-clutching over the swearing is a bit of a blind, though, and that the “calling white people thieves” is what’s REALLY the offense here.

  11. J.R. Boyd Says:

    Thanks for the critiques of Food Not Bombs. I think they raise some great points. It sounds like FNB could benefit by “listening” to the preferences of the communities they work in a little more, rather than presuming to know what works best. I agree that any “charity” component should be opposed in principle.

    Speaking of presuming to know what is best, what’s up with the self-appointed comment moderators in these threads? Let people say what they want. You certainly aren’t obligated to agree with them; but you also aren’t obligated to “make” them say what you want to hear — unless you really enjoy futility!

  12. Interesting discussion. I only have a couple of things to share. Imo, being quiet wrt racism is a kind of complicit. I think it’s not the job of POC to challenge white privilege, it’s the job of white people to do it and fix their shit (and not just talk about it, but to do it).

    White people who do not cultivate a habit of examining and challenging their own privileges on a daily basis (preferably, in every social relationship) are behaving in a racist why insofar as they continue to exercise a privilege they shouldn’t have accorded them as a benefit of white supremacist society: the privilege not to worry about race as a formative and deeply penetrating social problem in North American life (sorry for the phallocentric metaphor).

    As to whether FNB members are racist, I seriously have no opinion. Is it a racist institution? I will say that their mode of production is essentially capitalist in nature (it’s just primitive accumulation,which provides the historical basis of capitalism, not an anti-capitalism). I also believe that many people reconstruct this activity as a kind of “taking and sharing” on the part of those who are privileged to do so (often but their race and their sex, but also their level of education and class standing) and that this represents an uncritical exercise of white privilege (but also class, and probably to a certain degree, gender privilege). It’s a kind of “socialism for white people” thing, and honestly, I wouldn’t consider that socialism of any meaningful kind.

    Were non-white, non-middle class, non-male people to do the same work that behaviour would inevitably not be understood in the same way. It would probably be understood in different, generally negative ways depending on the community in question and the individuals in question. So, a certain privilege is being exercised just do to the work and, quite often, that privilege wouldn’t even be exercised in an effort to undermine white surpremacist privilege per se but to further a situation in which a supposedly ‘anti-classist’ action renders questions of race (and not just race) and its attending politics invisible. I hope that makes sense.

    Mostly, dumpster diving reminds me of the general tendency of privileged Americans to help people who are racially and culturally similar to themselves but slightly less class-privileged, without bothering to ask how that would affect equality per se. I guess I see it as being similar to when wealthy white women were granted the vote in Canada who declared it a feminist victory, without them ever asking about whether it was a victory for poor women, for women of color, or for ant-sexist, pro-feminist struggle per se.

    In the end, I’ll suggest that a failure on the part of whites to (at very least) acknowledge this and to acknowledge that race inflects virtually all social relations more broadly in the United States is pretty racist. But then, lots of white people are racist idiots, even the ones who consider themselves not to be racists, and even a fair number of the ones who self-identify as anti-racist. :/ I wish it were otherwise.

    Also, the real reason I decided to comment was to point out the crossover tendencies between many self-identified ‘left’ groups in the US towards racism and fascism. The deep ecology movement in the US is a poster child example. Talk about a white supremacy movement masquerading as a kind of anti-establishment Left. In closing, though, I hope there was a sufficient lack of idiocy for this comment not to be deleted. If not, I understand.

    V

  13. johanna Says:

    I am amazed by some of the comments in this post. We have the tone argument, the “but not EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS LIKE THAT!” whine (when Royce said no such thing), &… lots of ignorance on display.

    Including about conversational dominance (oh noes, CENSORSHIP if you ask someone to consider how much goddamn space & time they are taking up on this blog in comparison to other commenters & posters–which is a LOT).

    “I’ll suggest that a failure on the part of whites to (at very least) acknowledge this and to acknowledge that race inflects virtually all social relations more broadly in the United States is pretty racist. But then, lots of white people are racist idiots, even the ones who consider themselves not to be racists, and even a fair number of the ones who self-identify as anti-racist.”

    YES. I hope this is taken to heart by lots of the people commenting here.

  14. johanna Says:

    Also for folks who may not know much about Crimethinc, there’s some discussion here (as well as about race issues in anarchist communities in general).

  15. Juan Makata Says:

    In my recent trip back to the land of my birth, the Philippines I was able to hook up with the FNB chapter of Manila and we went on an excursion to the squatter population that lives along the blackened and toxic Pasig river.
    The Manila FNB was mostly Pilipino but we had one American with us who had been living in the Philippines with his two children and he along with the others cooked a delicious meal of Tofu Bistek, rice, and some garbanzo beans. We all took turns handing out food and clothes, talking with people and hearing the stories they had to tell of being relocated to garbage sites and being fed food that was rotten and dirty.
    We had to do this action as a group because police often harass,extort or worse brutalize those who are making any attempts to communicate with the impoverished Pasig squatters.

    Every DIY punk collective in the Philippines does a FNB once sometimes twice a month. They do so using their own money, volunteering their time to go to neighborhoods and places that are considered sketchy.

    The FNB folks of the Philippines are either of working class background (meaning they make the equivalent of 200$ a month) or are themselves poor. FNB is a global movement, their chapters can be started by anyone, anywhere. There are FNB chapters all over the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong etc etc.

  16. KEEPGOING Says:

    POC are not a fucking homogeneous group! uugchh…

  17. J.R. Boyd Says:

    Any well-intentioned person is going to bring both assets and ignorance to any project, based on their personal experience. This much can be taken for granted.

    It’s probably useful to ask ourselves how we want address a reality that arises inevitably out “progressive” movements in a racist society where privileged individuals have greater opportunities for social and political action.

    Personally, I think it’s good to acknowledge reality, administer (and accept) criticism, and proceed with some minimal standard of patience and love. Otherwise I don’t see mass-based movements of diverse concerns holding together for very long.

  18. ansel Says:

    I left this comment on anarchistnews.org:

    In response to this piece: Yes, racism is rampant in the domestic anarchist movement. Yes, white anarchists need to stop, shut up, and listen sometimes. Yes, Food Not Bombs is often little more than charity by groups of predominately white young folks.

    But no, “as a white person you are a colonizer, you are a white supremacist,” i.e. an anti-racist white person is an impossibility. That’s ridiculous. As strong an institution as white supremacy is, white allies have played small but significant roles in anti-racist movements going back decades. They may not have been perfectly anti-racist in every single action. But you couldn’t describe someone like Helen Suzman, for example, as a racist or colonizer, and be taken seriously.

    There are plenty of young nameless folks at FNB chapters across the country who, however imperfectly, are aware of white supremacist capitalism and are seeking to bring it down from the bottom up. If despite their good intentions, their actions are racist ,they should be called out as such: “This thing that you did was racist,” NOT “you are a white supremacist!!1″

    In Austin the homeless population is generally segregated along racial lines. Walking the streets downtown you’ll see homeless white folks gathered in corners, black folks in other places. At FNB servings they converge on a park and they talk with one another. Often they eat together, we all talk together Most folks really enjoy the fresh food and there’s a positive atmosphere. That’s probably a small positive anti-racist development.

    So saying FNB in its totality is white supremacist, without qualification, doesn’t make any sense. The argument about ‘controlling the underground food supply’ is unsubstantiated. In my experience FNB collects and makes available a tiny portion of the edible food thrown into city dumpsters. That’s a net positive, without a doubt.

    Some functions of some FNB chapters may be racist – folks should be open to those critiques. We need those critiques. But the ‘open letter to FNB’ isn’t that. Maybe it can be a starting point for real discussion. In Austin, for example, a douche-bag city council member described our group (perhaps accurately) as a charity/relief group, and used us to excuse the city’s inaction in addressing poverty…

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  20. earthwrm Says:

    As a white, longtime FNB activist, I had to really struggle to read and consider Kilwaii’s letter and not become defensive. I think maybe some others who have posted here have felt that same temptation to become defensive.

    While I don’t think I agree entirely with it (e.g. that FNB should cease to exist and is doing more harm than good), there are a number of important points that every FNB chapter should consider:
    * Would the food we’re taking be going to someone else if we didn’t dumpster it? Is our dumpster diving depriving anyone of food?
    * Are we bringing attention or heat to the dumpster, making it less safe for others?
    * Are the places and environments where we serve really accessible to the people that most need the food?
    * Are the social dynamics of the group unfair or unwelcoming to people of certain races, classes, etc?
    * Are we in presenting ourselves as we do, and in making the political statements that we do, promoting an overly simplistic, inaccurate representation of reality? e.g. “everyone should be doing this!” or “getting free food is easy!” when in fact we’re able to do that much more easily because of our privilege?
    * Is FNB providing us a way to pat ourselves on the back rather than examining our privilege, thus inhibiting the struggle to raise awareness and thereby reduce racism?

    These questions are a good starting point for mitigating this potential harm. e.g. maybe go dumpster diving as close as possible to when it’s picked up to give others a chance to go first. And of there’s other groups that want to do food distro then by all means don’t deprive them of food. I think to fail to sincerely consider these points and fix any harm that we’re causing would be wrong, and insofar as we’ve been doing that Kilwaii is right–we’re being racist.


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