Vegans of Color

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

Freegans of Color? June 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 7:00 pm

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 my friends and I did the reasonable thing for a bunch of broke students who are working on campus during the summer– we grabbed our backpacks and hit the dumpsters.

This isn’t the first time I’ve dumpstered food, I lived off of it last summer. And I run into a lot of freegans on my dives, especially when in big cities. But the one thing I never run into are freegans of color besides myself, and occasionally a close friend of  mine. So my question is– where are these freegans of color?

Freeganism is a largely white middle-class movement (that seems to forget that poor folks have been eating garbage forever). And when I’m dumpster-diving I seem to have a few more issues to deal with, as a Black male, than my white comrades. They aren’t nearly as afraid of the police (or security), or threats of calling the police (or security), nor do they get harassed by law enforcement while diving to the degree that I do. I got harassed by security several times while diving on my own campus, until my white friends pop their heads out of the dumpsters. I’m also extremely embarassed for people to see me diving, because I can tell that I’m not just me, I’m also a representation of Black people in general.

So other than that I was wondering if any freegans of color can shed light on experiences.


7 Responses to “Freegans of Color?”

  1. noemi Says:

    I thought freegans were those that ate any free food, including meat. This isn’t so? I’ve heard folks say something like I’m not vegan, I’m freegan.
    I have dumpster dived in the past outa necessity. But we never called it dumpster diving. It was more like lets go see if there’s anything that’s good or we can use.

  2. amalgamated Says:

    I can say that I have noticed that many of my white friends have completely different attitudes towards the police than I do.
    Police, to them, are inherently evil sanctions of the state. I don’t disagree with them, but I, for the life of me, can’t bring myself to understand how they have come to this conclusion so violently. They have all chosen their political affiliations, and chose to participate in activities such as dumpster diving and protests. If they are among many like them in these situations, they “blend in.” They chose their increased risk, yet, I still have to deal with being the only brown person in these situations without them understanding my increased paranoia. They are more violently anti-police in general, I suppose, and I’m more afraid of them, yet, they don’t get it.

  3. Meep Says:

    I think there might be a level of both excitement and disconnect with the white kids. I’ve gotten things from around the dumpsters, but I don’t tell my family because it’s sort of shameful, because now I’m not poor and I should be able to afford new things, brown people don’t need to be digging in garbage, etc. But for your friends, did they grow up poor or has college life brought about the necessity? Since they don’t have the stigma, then it’s not a concern.

  4. Royce Drake Says:

    @noemi There are lots of types of freegans, most of the one’s I’ve met won’t eat meat. At one point when I claimed the freegan label I did eat some meat, and that made me slide further and further from my original veganism.

    @amalgamated In my case I’m far more radically anti-police than my white friends, but thats because activists at my college are largely upper-middle class white students who never have real run ins with the police– many of them don’t understand my fear nor my anger towards the police.

    @meep That’s exactly the sort of shame I feel when I go diving in the day time. Of friends I went dumpster diving this last time one was upper-middle class, raised outside the US by parents that work for NGOs, and the other was working class from NE. For one of them diving isn’t a necessity– its thriftiness.

  5. johanna Says:

    Royce — oh yeah. I definitely think the whole “being a representative of your race” thing is something a lot of progressive white people forget all the time that lots of other people have to deal w/. Augh. I wonder if, like what other folks say, there are other freegans of color but they just would never name themselves as such because the term is so white-identified (or they would just never even think of using it as an identity term — like Noemi said, it’s just let’s go see if there’s anything we can use).

  6. Qola D. Says:

    Such great comments and a wonderful post to read, even 3 years later.
    As an anthropologist from a black-european background, I really hear what all of you are saying about this. I’ve had similar expierences with my white friends in (food-)activism. I find this issue terribly interesting and useful to think about in current days of the political atmosphere we’re in.
    I’ll be travelling to Brooklyn (coming from Amsterdam) around late December 2011 and plan to stay still early April to do a study on ‘freegans of color’. If any of you live in the NY area, or know people that do that would like to talk to me, please let me know if you like!

    This discussion has been really helpful for me to read. TnX!

  7. Saul McCoy Says:

    I ran into the same thing… It is not looked highly upon by our culture. Many people would rather mooch off of someone, live with their parents, or beg rather than dive for food. Another thing Is the need to dive creates a distancing effect from others, so you’re not looking for anything other than what you need to get back to your shelter. Minorities have the unfortunate label in this country of being mischievous and are easily identified out of groups of people. Dumpster Diving as a sport or choice as a way of life is more serious a thing for others. Its easy for a minority to be looked negatively while diving. Crime and fear do not help the freegan, who in actually is trying to combat just that. The truth is out there and apparent in the dumster it makes you reevaluate our existence when you see boxes of food in the dumpster, remembering seeing others whose aura reads ‘Starving”. Maybe someone should start up some minority diving groups in partnership with larger groups

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