Whitney and The Wagging Fingers

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Whenever I think of Whitney Houston, I recall playing “Saving All My Love For You” over and over again as I fall deeper in love with someone I know I can’t ever have (unless you Godless scientists hurry up with human cloning). And how that typically leads me to “Just The Lonely Talking Again” when feeling a lot more somber over it. Naturally, I try to shoop, shoop my way out of my simp-heavy feelings…to no avail. Henceforth, butchered versions of “Run To You,” “I Have Nothing,” “You Give Good Love,” and “All That Man I Need” come not long after. So butchered that my throat sounds like it got in a fight with a garbage disposal. I mean, before I have a sip of water, of course.

When I’m feeling exceptionally gay and in the mood for the auntie in my head, I cue “Queen of The Night” and “My Name Is Not Susan.” Then I instantly wonder why did I ever bother trying to kid myself years ago?  I could go on — you know, “I Believe In You and Me,” “Jesus Loves Me,”  “Count On Me” and the like. Or when I wanna do a Nippy two-step, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “How Will I Know,” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” Then there’s “In My Business,” “Salute,” and “Whatchulookinat” — which will never not crack me up.

Point is, with her voice and that catalog she’s been with me for as long as I can remember. In every situation. People who pretend they don’t understand why strangers cling to celebrities – particularly singers – are being ignorant to the power of art. God bless them, that’s an attribute I never ever want.

That said, it’s becoming increasingly harder for me to reflect on the artists I grew up listening to. One, because it makes me think of the mortality of people in my life, and in some cases, my own. Worse, I have to face the reality that another person plagued with some demons for much of their lives died way too soon before they could truly conquer them. Such outcomes terrify me.

I suppose what vexes me the most, though, is once that happens, the blame game ensues. You have the self-righteous ready to pounce on the fallen and oversimplify what it means to be an addict. Or better yet what it’s like to be a person simply living with the sort of pain that leads them towards those kind of vices. Never mind that Whitney’s official cause of death has yet to be released, folks have their talking points ready and they’re gonna use them regardless.

Then there’s the well meaning but still misguided blame on the public. “You laughed at Whitney, so thus, you’re a part of the problem.” No, we’re not. As someone who lived with an addict, suffice to say I can understand all the pain, confusion, and anger that can come of it for those around. However, I think it’s silly to suggest that anyone who watched Being Bobby Brown or laughed at “crack is wack” is culpable.

When you’re frustrated, laughter helps. When you’re trying to cope, humor can help you deal. When you don’t know what else to do about a problem, a joke can do wonders in the meantime. That doesn’t mean you don’t wish them well nor does it suggest you don’t understand the severity of a given situation. Laughter merely adds convenience to the uncomfortable.

Besides, Whitney Houston was funny as hell. Her wit, her comedic timing, and those one liners: How could I not laugh some of the time?

And then there’s Bobby Brown, the target of an overwhelming share of the blame for what happened to Whitney Houston over time. I was more than annoyed when I saw mainstream outlets use the terms “posse” and “entourage” to describe Bobby arriving to his funeral with his family. The connotation is not lost on me, but at least Bobby released a statement explaining the matter and Al Sharpton went on to confirm that he was respectful.

It’s all just a subtle rehash of past attempts to demonize Bobby Brown and make him the source of all of Whitney Houston’s troubles. I touched on why that is problematic in my latest for theGrio. You can read that here.

As I wrote in the piece: “Whatever is ruled to be Whitney Houston’s official cause of death, it makes no sense to continue blaming Bobby Brown. We are responsible for our own actions and the consequences they yield. Instead of wagging our fingers, let her rest, let him grieve in peace, and let us just pray for those who remain in pain and who seek ways to cope.”

The same can be said about the way others are trying to scold fans. Whatever wreck people believed Whitney to be, the train stopped the day before the Grammys. As we move forward, hopefully conversations about what we can learn from her passing can move beyond, “You did this, he did that, and she did it to herself.” Until then, I’d rather just focus on what’s most important: How much her talent meant to all those who loved her.

Thank you for sharing your gift with us, Whitney. God rest your soul and God be with your daughter.


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