Side A Featured Essay: Harmony Neal’s “Allyship”


A response to the piece by the same name by Will Waller

Oppressor: I’m here to help! I’m not like the other people from my group. I believe in equality for all.

Oppressed Person: You’re standing on my neck.

O: No I’m not! Wait, what?

OP: You’re standing on my neck. Could you please get off?

O (looking around wildly, examining their body carefully, except for the leg with the foot that is planted firmly on the OP’s neck): You’re mistaken. I’m here to help you up. Here, take my hand. (Sticks hand straight out in the air.)

OP: Actually, you are standing on my neck. I cannot take your hand while you’re standing on my neck.

O (putting more weight on foot on neck while looking at smartphone): Uh, nope, I’ve checked with all the major authorities on helping marginalized people like you, and they all agree: I am not standing on your neck.

OP: If you would look at my neck, you would see your foot there.

O (staring at outstretched hand instead): Can we move on? I want to help you, but I think we have to agree to disagree on the first point.

OP: It’s hard for me to move on while I’m having a hard time breathing.

O: You only think you’re having a hard time breathing. That’s a biological problem with your kind. It doesn’t make you inferior! Just different. They did a study on it. It’s a natural difference that should be accepted, no, celebrated!

OP: Who did what study?

O: Oh, you know, some scientists looked into it. I didn’t want to believe the results at first myself, but the evidence was quite compelling. But I understand there are many obstacles you face besides your own biology that makes you imagine feet on your neck that are not there. I want to help! Here, take my hand.

OP: I don’t see how you could help me up while keeping your foot on my neck. It’s impossible.

O: No, no, no. I told you. That’s just your biology. Look. Here’s my hand. Take it! (Vigorously shakes hand that is held straight out from body, a good four feet away from the head of the OP.)

OP: I can barely see it because it’s far away and you’re standing on my neck.

O: You’re not even trying! I swear. I’m trying to treat you equally, and it’s like you want more, like you want to be superior to me! But fine, I care about equality, and if you want some… “reparations,” I guess I can help. (Lower’s hand an inch.)

OP: I can only see your bottom two fingers. Remember, I’m on the ground with your foot on my neck. You’ll have to bend over or at least lower your hand if you want me to take it. I’m having a lot of trouble breathing now.

O: I’m trying to do the right thing here, but how the hell am I supposed to help you if you’re going to keep claiming I’m standing on your neck?! I’m being nice. I am very rational and objective, and I think I’d know if I was standing on your neck. I’m not! I’ve helped plenty of people like you, and none of them accused me of standing on their necks.

OP: Could you please dial 911? I think I need to go to the hospital now.

O: That’s it! I tried to help, but you’re unreasonable! It’s people like you who keep your people down. You’re unreasonable and give everyone like you a bad name. (Storms off, crunching OP’s neck hard as they exit.)

Harmony Neal was the 2011-2013 Fiction Fellow at Emory University. Her stories and essays have been published in Shadows & Tall Trees, The Fantasist, Interzone, Black Static, Eleven Eleven, Gulf Coast, Nashville Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Paper Darts, among others. Her essay “Simulacra” is included in the 2015 Best of the Net Anthology. She encourages women everywhere to get hysterical:

Image: Hereford Bull Bath and West Show,

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