Is Whitney Houston black enough NOW?

Warning: This post is not for the faint hearted.

I wonder if Whitney Houston is black enough now.  Early in her career she was heavily criticized by the black community, even booed by fans of BET because they thought she had abandoned her “blackness,” whatever in the world that is. They felt she had abandoned her church singing, gospel roots by singing pop music rather than R&B, as if pop music were the exclusive property of non-black artists. In fact, looking back on it now it seems completely absurd, but rest assured the concept of not being black enough still exists. It is a particular expression of oppression sickness, in which people who have begun to free themselves from oppression feel the need to oppress others – sometimes members of their own demographic. The problem isn’t unique to black people, it is common to all oppressed groups.

Eventually, perhaps in a misguided attempt to become black enough, Whitney got involved with Bobby Brown. Nobody could question Bobby Brown’s “blackness,” and so perhaps Whitney became “black enough” when she became involved with him.  Or maybe it was when she started sharing his drug addiction, or when he started beating her that she finally earned the approval of those who had at one point  had criticized her for not being black enough. Make no mistake about it, she was responsible for her own actions and the choices she made but the pressure on her must have been enormous. Michael Jackson was a pop star, but nobody questioned his “blackness” – even when he started bleaching his skin. One can’t help but wonder if the real problem is a deeply held belief that a black woman’s function is as a victim of a long standing patriarchy that results in black women not being free to express themselves – much less succeed – outside of a very narrowly defined and inherently limiting definition of what it is to be “black enough.”

During the 1980s I used to joke that nearly every middle aged white man had fantasies about Whitney Houston. While I certainly don’t think it’s a good thing for anyone to objectify anyone else, there is a sense in which I can’t help but wonder if that was part of what made people think she wasn’t black enough – she appealed across racial lines in her music and in her person, at least until she became a tragic figure trapped in a downward spiral of her own making. If her autopsy results become public, I won’t be surprised if the cause of death is cardiac related. Cocaine wreaks havoc on the heart, and so it may well be true that Whitney Houston died of a broken heart. Perhaps at last she will be black enough – but if what it means to be black is to be addicted and the victim of domestic violence I believe we need to redefine what constitutes being black enough.

My biggest problem is that I believe the question of being black enough, or white enough, or brown enough is the wrong question.  The only important question is whether or not we can be human enough, and that question must be asked first and foremost of those who would judge another as somehow deficient because they don’t fit in with their stereotypes, prejudices, and small-mindedness. We will only become fully human when we can allow every other person to be fully human and true to themselves rather than true to our expectations. How many more Whitney Houstons will have to self-destruct before we learn that lesson?


17 thoughts on “Is Whitney Houston black enough NOW?

  1. In honoring Ms. Houston, we must remember how bad the black establishment treated her at first. The black establishment owes her daughter an apology.

    1. Are you serious? I’m going to assume you are, because I can’t imagine anyone accusing anyone of plagiarism who wasn’t serious. If it turns out that I am about to respond to what was supposed to be a joke, then you have no sense of humor and I won’t apologize.

      Your arrogance is astonishing. Any stats tracking software will reveal that my IP address, until appoximately 8:43 CST on February 14th, never visited your blog. Last year you wrote a total of fourteen whole posts on your blogger blog – not exactly a prolific output. Look at how much, and frankly how well, I write – I would hardly need to plagiarize your output to get content.

      What’s more, the death of Whitney Houston was big news. I’m quite certain that you and I aren’t the only two people in the world who wrote about Whitney Houston’s death and the struggles she had with acceptance in her ethnic community. The similarities stop there. You wrote that “…Bobby Brown, that nasty living negro, killed Whitney Houston.” There is an anger in your writing that is most definitely not in mine. You indicate in your blog comments that you are getting feedback that accuses you of being racist, which you deny. I accept that denial because I don’t know you and so will not judge you. I must tell you, however, when you refer to any black man as a “nasty…negro” in 2012, your language is racist whether you intended it to be or not. You use that terminology not once, but twice. Your parting shot, written I am quite certain in anger, is no better: “I hope you people, the black community, are proud of yourselves. You got what you wanted. A black Whitney Houston…dead!” What you refer to as the “black community” is not monolithic. I am quite certain that nobody wanted Whitney Houston dead, unless she had problems that are not public knowledge. People may have thought she was selling out her ethnicity, and I would disagree with that belief, but that is a far cry from wanting her dead.

      I also find it curious that there is no bio on your blog, no indication of who you really are, no links to much of anything that would give you credibility on any level – just a post about every three months or so lashing out at some person, policy, or institution. I have worked hard to build my abilities and reputation and have a resume and body of work that demonstrates that fact.

      You also should be aware that accusing someone of plagiarism is very serious business. When those accusations are unfounded, the result is often legal action against the accuser. I have no interest in pursuing legal action against you or anyone else, but the next individual whom you accuse may not be so generous. For my part, I will let the differences in writing both in tone and in quality speak for themselves.

      I know you didn’t ask for my advice, but if I were you I would consider writing a clarification to my readers. You might assure them that your language was at times poorly chosen because of the intensity of your emotional response to news of Ms. Houston’s death. If such a statement was sincerely presented, the hate email would likely stop.

      Bishop Craig Bergland

    2. Oh yes, one other thing, Mike. Your blog published two hours and three minutes after mine. You might want to check your facts before you start slinging accusations. 6:03am PST is two hours and three minutes after 6am CST.


  2. up on top, where it reads Feb. 13 2012 on the day you published. When I hover over that date, the time shows up and it reads: 12:00 pm.

    Now, even if it is Eastern time, that would make it 9:00 am here in California.

    My post was written at 6:03 am pacific time. Add the 3 hours for Eastern time and it would be 9:03 am on your side of the world.

    mike t.

  3. As far as me being racist…I’m not, but when the black community accuses Whitney of not being black enough…that is racist. And that was my whole point.

    Always crying about someone being racist, but never looking into the mirror.

    mike t.

  4. And, unfortunately, Bobby Brown is a nasty negro. That is the truth! And there is no racism in the truth.

    What he did to that woman is well documented. And what he did to that woman was nasty. He spit in her face. That is nigger behavior. Now, there is a difference between being a nigger and a negro.

    A negro is a real word. In Spanish it means black.

    The word nigger is a derogatory word, meaning to be an expression of uncivilized behavior.

    Spitting in Whitney face is pure nigger behavior.

    That is the truth! And there is no racism in truth!

    When “you people” quit hiding behind the race card and start taking responsibility for your behavior, then talk racism. But, as long as “you people” go around calling each other “nigger,” screw you! You disrespect yourself, and cry when someone else does it?

    Your politically correct mindset is the furthest thing from any form of “truth.”

    mike t.


    “Brown and Houston, 48 when she died in her room at the Beverly Hilton Saturday, were married from 1992 to 2007 in a union that was often volatile. Houston said in 2009 that Brown “slapped her” and “spit in my face” during one argument. “He was my drug,” she explained of their passionate dynamic.”

    Now, say what you want, but that is nigger behavior. And that is the truth! And I’m not racist for saying it.

    mike t.

    1. See, but here’s the problem – the word “nigger” is inherently racist, no matter how you intend it. It’s kind of like calling someone an asshole and then trying to qualify it by saying, “and I mean that with love.” It just doesn’t work. There are some words that automatically provoke strong feelings, and that is one of them. There were – and are – just too many people marginalized, beaten, raped, and killed because they were seen as somehow less than fully human and their status as subhuman was conveyed by calling them “nigger.” That word says that a person is just wasting space by being on the planet. You might have said that Bobby Brown was trashy, ignorant, ghetto, a scum bag, a douche nozzle, or any number of other things and not gotten a visceral response from people – but by choosing that word you are guaranteed to get one because it just shuts people down and they go to rage. When you add to the meaning of the word that fact that tens of thousands of people across the world have died (including Dr. King) to work for the day when all people would be seen for what they are – fully human – then it becomes even more of a tinder box.

  6. Listen, I’m just angry that Whitney is gone.

    I’m not racist. But, I am tired of the ignorance all the way around.

    Some of what I write is intended to “shock” people to the truth.

    It’s nothing more than that.

    mike t.

  7. I’m sad Whitney is gone and I don’t know how many times I’ve said or thought that her life went into the dumper when she hooked up with Bobby Brown (I nearly always put the word “that” in front of Bobby Brown!). I feel like Mr. Brown owes us but I’m not sure how he should pay.

  8. Mike,

    Regarding the n-word, you should do some reading. If you’re a decent human being, then you’ll see that t’s not okay for non-black people to use it, and it’s also not okay for them to opine on whether or not black people should use it; that’s up to them, since it’s a word ABOUT them.

    Kinda like how a white person, say, a bishop, shouldn’t go around opining about what some black people have to say about other black people; again, that’s up to them, since it’s an issue ABOUT them, and a non-black person isn’t likely to express a solid understanding of the issue and the feelings behind it, as is the case with the good bishop’s condemnation of an ironically monolithic (given some of what he wrote to Mike) “black community.” And really, why take the moment of someone’s death, especially this moment, when so many are mourning that death, to condemn actions of “the black community”? Talk about bad, boorish timing!

    Mike, here’s a start for you:

    1. Hold on, Millie. I agree with you completely about the n-word, and I would say that Mike definitely needs a seminar around the issues of racism and white privilege at a minimum – but that’s not my job in this context.

      However, I never condemned the actions of the black community nor did I would suggest it was monolithic. That being said, outside of a thesis length article – which is not the purpose nor the context of a blog – some generalizations have to be made. What’s more, you don’t know me or the communities in, to, and with whom I minister. You don’t know who my colleagues are, you don’t know that I was at the Samuel Procter Conference in Chicago last week (and in years past) which is Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s conference, you don’t know that my principle partner in ministry and brother from another mother is Bishop John L.Selders, Jr. – a black clergyman and bishop – nor that I count among my friends and colleagues Bishop Carlton Pearson. I am not uninformed nor inexperienced in matters of communities of color, and it is both my experience and understanding that there are double standards for women as opposed to men in all cultures. Unique to the black community in America seems to be this idea that one’s behavior can disqualify they from belonging to their ethnic group. I cannot imagine the pain that statements to that effect must have caused in Whitney Houston. Unlike Mike, I did not blame anyone for her death. Unlike Mike my remarks were most certainly not racist.

      As to the issue of people mourning the death of Whitney Houston, I have been completely respectful of that process. However, I do believe her death raises these issues anew, and to ignore them it to condone the problem. I refuse to do that. As the grandfather of two beautiful bi-racial grandchildren, I have a vested interest in this issue. They will most certainly – in fact, already have been – be called not black enough, not white enough, and everything in between.

      SO may I suggest that, rather than dismiss me out of hand because of my ethnicity, that energy might be redirected into a dialogue to address these issues inside and beyond the black and white communities? Might we work together – as my blog suggested – to move toward the day when people are allowed to express themselves in the fullness of their beauty as human beings and children of God and not have to worry about someone attempting to silence them because they don’t fit in to their idea of what it is to be a member of a particular community?

      As to Mike, I’m not going to tolerate his use of racial slurs on this blog and will remove them post haste. I was away from the computer when his last two comments came across. Mike, if you insist on using racist language I will block you. If a dialogue can be had, I welcome that, but it cannot include racial epithets. I agree with Millie that you need some education around racism and white privilege.

      I thank you both for your input!

  9. OK, Bishop,

    I’m sorry for using the n-word. I was just frustrated.

    I have black nieces and nephews. I love them.

    One of them uses the n-word all the time when addressing his friends. I just feel like slapping him when I hear that. But, that’s between him and his mom and brothers and sisters.

    Again, I’m sorry for using the n-word to begin with. It’s such a nasty word.

    mike t.

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