APOC VS Food Not Bombs

Is Food not Bombs unwittingly harming the POC communities it helps? Some seem to take it a step further than that.

A meal being served by Food Not Bombs

This article just came to my attention, and it’s just…wow ((Note: I realize that this is just one APOC who does not necessarily repressent the feelings of the whole movement. I just needed a title)).

I am not very familiar with the “race” tension in the US (I use “scare quotes” because I can’t really consider skin colour a race) but some of the things the author says don’t make sense to me. White privilege does not equal white supremacy. Someone may be ignorant on how their privilege display and use is harming poc, but that’s a far cry from claiming that they are part of a movement aiming to dominate people of colour. This is without pointing out that FNB does not operate just in black neighborhoods as far as I understand.

The next thing that perplexes me is that the author asks FNB people to give away the food to the communities that need it and go away. But this presumes that there are people in those communities who are up for running a kitchen, or distributing it, or whatever. But if those existed, wouldn’t they have set up their own FNB (or something similar) in the first place, therefore making the existence of a second FNB org moot? And if nobody is there to actually do this, then what? Not do it at all? Not try and help people in your communities with your own time and effort?

The author seems to be unwittingly supporting a kind of class division, in the way that they say: “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.” But aren’t people of all classes supposed to co-operate? Shouldn’t it be expected by better-off anarchists to use their privilege for good rather than evil? Of course it is privilege that these people have the time, money and energy, to setup FNB chapters, but I don’t see how it’s a privilege that reinforces oppression. Rather, I would think that it’s the kind of privilege use, that battles itself, by letting people know that they canĀ  do the same thing, regardless of their skin colour or wealth.

I could be simply ignorant here. There could be specific circumstances in POC neighborhoods that primarily white FNB chapters inflame somehow, but the author does not deem it necessary to go into detail. The best I understand is that FNB dumpster diving might be affecting those who dumpster dive themselves outside of FNB. But that would be a class privilege rather than white privilege and something that I would expect the people actually affected to oppose. Is there any such opposition from people that cannot dumpster dive anymore when FNB comes around?

Unfortunately, the author does something I’ve seen many other times within radical circles, which is, use privilege as an excuse and a cudgel in order to promote something which has nothing to do with it. In this case, the author seems to just want white people out of black neighborhoods, regardless. The argument seems to be basically: FNB is white supremacist because privilege.

But I would expect a bit more explanation than that. I can imagine a few scenarios, such as FNB disturbing the dynamics of poc dumpster divers, or trying to take some kind of white charity role, or being a gentrification front. But without at least some clarification, it’s impossible to know what exactly, and how to avoid doing it in the future, while continuing to be of help to the rest of your community. But simply wishing that white people stop trying to provide mutual aid because they’re white, with no further explanation or nuance whatsoever, seems simply wrong.

Anyway, as I said, this is coming from my own, non US-centric perspective. If any POC are willing to perhaps educate a clueless European like me, or at least provide me with some places I can educate myself, I’d appreciate it.

EDIT: I just noticed that this is an old post, there’s been follow-ups here and here

4 thoughts on “APOC VS Food Not Bombs”

  1. Wow.

    I don't have any real-world experience with anarchist community organizing, mutual aid or other anarchic activities since I'm a relatively fresh convert to anarchism, but from my experiences from anarchist forums and blogs, I'm a little afraid that I'll run into people like this when I pop my cherry in that regard. Anarchism is such a scary word for most people that it tends to stay marginal, and it seems the most fringey, opinionated, ideologically extremist and intolerant kooks prosper in any marginal movement. For instance, you can have a productive conversation about Marx's analysis of capitalism and his solutions to it in radical leftist circles, but when some vanguardist accuses anarchist critics of being bourgeois pigs who deserve a bullet to the neck, you begin to back away… slowly.

    I think I understand the concept of privilege and I'm constantly challenging myself to watch out for sexism and racism in my own behavior, but there's literally nothing I could say to that person. Yes, oppressed people have different backgrounds and can see privilege where someone like me may not initially see it, but dumpster diving while white is racist? Seriously? I mean, I'm not really offended if that person has a problem with white people and I don't mind surrendering privileges, but I'd still like to work with with less privileged activists and not have to walk on eggshells in everything I do.

    I don't know how we can get the ideas of anti-privilege, anti-hierarchy and solidarity off the ground in today's climate of ideas when people like this try to cause more dissonance in the movement. If we use words like "white supremacist" to describe privileged anarchists, then what's the point in fighting real examples of privilege in our mass culture? Of course we should check ourselves, but are we going to cleanse every last remnant of entitlement in anarchist circles before we can engage the rest of the world?

    When people join radical groups for the sake of being radical, this is exactly what you get.

  2. > I am not very familiar with the “race” tension in the US

    Then why on earth are you commenting on this? What this subject *definitely* needs is one more clueless White person sticking his oar in.

    1. Fair enough. This is mostly my own thoughts (this is a personal blog afterall) and my attempt to understand the issue.

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