I’ve wanted to write about this for some time. Whitney Houston was a huge music influence in my life. I’m a classically trained singer, but her music was always front and center.
Seeing her struggle to appease the black community and “be black enough” (whatever that is–I guess she was supposed to be a stereotype?), and sing the way everyone thought she should was rough, but she handled interviews so well. She stood up for herself when no one else did. I always respected that.
Whitney Houston went to private school. Her mother sang backup for Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross. Whitney was raised well and became a teenage model. She was anything but a “hood rat,” but apparently that’s all the music industry wants from black women. Or maybe wanted when I was growing up.
And the black community booed her for singing pop. How dare an educated black woman be universally loved for her music instead of her “blackness?” But we can’t talk about THAT can we…
Some days it bothers me so much that I think the black community should take some responsibility for her death. Maybe, just maybe, if she wasn’t pressured to “be more black,” she wouldn’t have felt the need to date Bobby Brown to gain some street cred. Maybe, just maybe, her recreational drug use wouldn’t have gone awry and turned her into the stereotype people so desperately forced her into.
I fear that this piece doesn’t capture her as well as I want. Nothing I write could. But after reading her mother’s book, Robyn Crawford’s, and Gerrick Kennedy’s, the only thing I am sure of is that Whitney Houston was surrounded by people who just wanted to soak up some of her fame. I fear that she lacked the support she needed from the people that mattered most to her, at least in times of need.
I don’t know. That’s just my opinion. I wasn’t there, and many of us will never know. What truly breaks my heart is knowing how her daughter followed in her footsteps entering an abusive relationship, doing drugs, and even dying in a bathtub strung out.
Cissy Houston’s book, about her daughter, talks more about herself. Robyn Crawford talks herself up more than an author should. And thankfully Gerrick Kennedy has released something a little more helpful in trying to piece together the whole story. I do believe that all loved her in their own way, but probably not the way she needed.
I don’t know why Whitney Houston’s death still bothers me. I remember rooting for her to stay clean when she reaffirmed her faith on national TV. Watching her fall back into old habits was painful. It is a true cautionary tale, one that reminds me to always be weary of self-destruction. Sometimes the worst treatment comes when we continuously punish ourselves without mercy. Especially after our own community abuses us so heavily.