Mutual Aid 101 #WeGotOurBlock

The reason I’ve been writing so much about Mutual Aid recently is because I have seen this concept in action. It has been amazing to join a group that is literally sharing food with those who need it.

Mutual Aid has a fundamentally different approach compared to relief agencies I’m familiar with. Just now I had to change that sentence, because I wrote “compared to OTHER relief agencies.” Those agencies work from the model of “us” helping “them”.

Mutual Aid, instead, is all about how we can help each other. One of the things the Free Food Store of Des Moines Mutual Aid does is take away the stigma and guilt of those who need food. It is the system that has failed them. When the car door is opened and we begin to put in the boxes of food, I’ve noticed we all greet those in the car cheerfully. I especially like those cars that have children, because they always greet me with a big smile. But it also makes me feel badly that these children and their families might go hungry if not for the food we share.

As stated below, our country is deeply divided. Even if the president is defeated, there are still many who support his ideas. This is another benefit of Mutual Aid. We can break down the political barriers if we work together to help each other.

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, some Biden supporters began to see a Biden election landslide as a necessary outcome to rebuke Donald Trump. However, this swift rebuke of Trump did not arrive as we watched the race turn into a battle of attrition overnight.

Anti-Trumpers’ desires for a repudiation of Trump is understandable. This administration has traumatized many and people desperately want to see this president held accountable and repudiated.

However, as some activists and observers have suggested on social media and in opinion pieces, this country is deeply polarized, and defeating Trump would not marginalize Trumpism, nor eradicate the structures that his brand of politics exploited and deepened — structural racism, settler colonialism, sexism, classism and policing.

No Matter Who Wins This Election, We Still Have to Defeat Trumpism, BY Austin C. McCoy, Truthout, November 5, 2020

What is Mutual Aid?

Mutual Aid is…

  • Getting people together in your community to provide material support to each other
  • Building relationships with your neighbors based on trust and common interest
  • Making decisions by consensus rather than relying on authority or hierarchy
  • Sharing things rather than hoarding things
  • Treating no one as disposable
  • Providing all kinds of support, ranging from food prep to childcare to translation to emotional support, and recognizing the value of all of them
  • A political education opportunity, where we build the relationships and analysis to understand why we are in the conditions that we’re in
  • Preparation for the next disaster (natural or economic). Next time around we’ll already have relationships with each other and know who is vulnerable and needs support
  • A great jumping off point for other kinds of organizing and movement work


Mutual Aid Is Not…

  • Quid pro quo transactions
  • Only for disasters or crises
  • Charity or a way to “save” people
  • A reason for a social safety net not to exist


Image: Josh McPhee/Just Seeds

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