Allyship vs Antiship: Failed Attempts and Support

(Image provided by Bernard Center for Research on Women)

Recently, I have started to think about the notion of help vs support. As an entrepreneur of Color, especially being a Black woman, I have recently had some major realizations. As I have engulfed myself in certain circles and communities and expressed my challenges as an entrepreneur sentiments have come in the form of unconscious and conscious condescension, pathologizing actions, and sometimes disregard in the form of failed attempts at building camaraderie. Many of these actions have been at the hands of “well intended” White women, especially older women, but have also come from within my own community and other communities who face oppression.

Due to the constant disappointment and failed attempts, I have come up with this notion of “antiship”as a form of failed allyship. I don’t think I originated this word, as the meaning of anti-ship refers to missiles that are guided missiles designed for use against ships and large boats. I utilized this term because the ability of a missle to sink or injure a ship resonates when I think about failed attempts of allyship for oppressed and marginalized identities.

Here are a few examples of how antiship shows up:

Ex 1) The Connector of the Oppressed- This person often shows up in two forms. The intention behind their allyship is to always a) connect people who have common identities or b) assume that we all know each other. Their brain says to them, hey I just met a Black woman, I must connect you to this other Black woman you already know without even asking if you have met this person. Or, in conversation they assume that you know said Black woman because you are both Black! This person also has a tendency to call you by the name of said Black woman and her by your name because of their inability to pay attention to our attributes due to selective attention paying and unconscious disregard for our identities and individuality.

This creates feelings of disregard and says that in your attempt to be an ally you disregarded my identity.

Ex 2) The Social Justice Justifier- Here is where I find many White liberals, although other identities are not excluded, who will fight tooth and nail for causes they believe in, and yes, many of these causes are related to oppression and have a social justice focus or lens. This person often treats other social justice advocates, People of Color, especially professionals, as if they need to be our uninvited mentor or savior. This person often speaks without listening, talks without acknowledging your presence, or listens to you but still does whatever the hell they want because they know what’s best for you and your people. They also speak to you as if your knowledge is irrelevant and they have let you into the cause for the purpose of presence and think they are amplifying your voice by speaking for you!

This person often refuses to acknowledge their own biases and how that can impact a relationship and even a movement.

Ex 3) The Interrupting Explainer — Here is where I have encountered numerous men. These people are the ones who I have to constantly remind not to interrupt me when I am talking, even if I am trying to answer a question that they asked. They also have a tendency to tell me exactly what to do without asking me what I have already done. It’s like talking to a biased brick wall that only sees you as a weaker subject that they need to help or save. They often present as if you can’t understand 1+1=2 and indirectly will blame you for your lack of progress because you are just not working hard enough. They also question everything that you do because they need a space to show their condescending expertise. A majority of my encounters here have been with men, but women you are not excluded from this form of antiship.

Ex 4) The Eminent Encourager- Here lies the person who feels that everytime you say no you are afraid and need encouraging. They will rub your back, change their tone and voice to a more westernized version of friendly and usually their first words are “I am here for you.” They don’t take the time to ask if you said “no” because you have already a bad experience, instead they think they are unconsciously pushing you towards your moment, your greatness. This person doesn’t often understand the underlying challenges you face, and they just want to help. They encourage you to get on every stage, to talk to everyone, they are overly optimistic without recognition of a your experiences and do this in the form of encouragement.

Ironically, this is how these failed attempts at allyship often feel. They can be just as devastating, if not more harmful, than blatant discrimination and disregard for my experiences and subject matter expertise. I am a firm believer that people in general can only give you what they got, they show up often how they grow up. BUT, allyship doesn’t mean that you got it, so stop talking to me like you get it and shut up and listen.

Dr. Cheryl Ingram aka Dr. CI, is a very successful entrepreneur, blogger, content creator and expert of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

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