It's Not Merely Black Excellence, It's More Complex Than That
By Yvette Mushimiyimana
Last year I wrote a short piece about black excellence. When I wrote it, I was still in the process of realizing my beauty as a black woman. The frame I used to discuss my realization was a peculiar Tumblr situation. I found myself having two Tumblr accounts. The first one that I had for years was where I followed fashion, fitness, interior design, and travel blogs. The issue with this account was that the general blogs I followed only had white people representing them. If there was a beautiful dress that I loved, it was a white person wearing it. If someone was in an eccentric home, it was a white person living in it. If there was a person who was giving some tips on a new workout, it was a fit white person giving it. If there was a photo of someone traveling to Turkey, it was a white person going there. Therefore, I felt like I couldn’t do any of those things. I knew that way of thinking was absolutely wrong so I made an alternative Tumblr to specifically follow black accounts. The more I saw people that looked like me doing things that I want or like to do, the more confident I became. My self-love evolved through other mediums too, but this was a prominent way of depicting it at the time.
Now I’d be lying to myself if I re-posted that piece on black excellence because this is not where my self love is. I’m not in that process anymore. Seeing images of “excellent” black people all over the media was relieving, but I wouldn’t say it’s liberating enough. In fact, I find it problematic for the process of self-love that I’m currently in. Don’t get me wrong, I want to keep seeing us represented in the media and workplace because we are valuable and worth recognition. However, this “excellence” title puts a pressure on me to prove something to the world. Yes, my blackness is amazing, great, beautiful, and wonderful. But, I am beyond those words. I am no longer comparing myself to those that don’t represent me. I don’t feel this desire to prove my beauty. Instead, I am defining myself as Yvette and trying to find/create space to allow this current process to happen.
Words like excellence don’t always give me that space. Excellence sees me as a high and mighty person who can do no wrong. I am up to date, I am in fashion, and I’m doing it effortlessly like a breeze. But I am not top notch. I break down. I can be wrong. I make bad decisions. I don’t always fit what’s in fashion. I don’t deny the excellence of black people. But I can’t be branded with that word. I am a black woman with many other identities that twist and turn my habits. I am a black woman who has many ideas and no ideas of what she’s doing in life. I am a black girl who just wants to be held to the same standards as another human in this world. So give me space to breakdown and be a mess. Give me space to say the wrong thing and reflect. Just like I was searching for space to be someone in a lovely gown, or that person who could travel to a country away from home. I am not branded with excellence, I’m just a human who loves, wants to be loved, and have space for complexity. So if you ask me what Black Girl Fly is, I’d tell you that this flyness we have is not excellent or something from another world. It is our resilience in the face of injustice. We are humans who make bad decisions. We are humans who are still trying to figure “it” out. Our flyness is complex. Our flyness is love. Sure, anyone can continue to recognize our excellence. And if that’s what you need right now then go on ahead and use it. Enjoy that space like I did. But remember that we are just as “excellent” as we are vulnerable human beings.
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