If you are Black in America, this Black history month represents the cruelest of all ironies.
Why? Because lately it hasn’t been cool to be Black in America. Down in D.C. there is a powerful political group calling for less of us and, certainly, less for us. Black unemployment is still double the national average (no matter how much people want to spin the small dip we saw in it last month). The children of Ronald Reagan’s crack generation are still “wilin’ out” in our inner cities, and, to top it all off, Whitney Houston’s brilliant and troubled career was brought to a tragic end last night.
To quote a line from a popular Marvin Gaye song and subsequent best-selling book based on it: “It’s enough to make you wanna holler.”
It makes me wanna holler because I loved Whitney Houston. I loved how she sang, how she looked, and the unapologetic way she loved her man even when the rest of America was saying ‘no.’
Still, in retrospect, America might have been right. The marriage didn’t last, and only a blind person would say that it wasn’t troubled. And yet she did it on her terms. She loved the man she wanted to love, and not the man America wanted her to have. I respected that.
Her death also troubled me because, unlike Michael Jackson, she was still one of ours. By the time Michael Jackson took his last hit of Propofol we already knew that we were losing him. We knew that he had already turned his back on us and wanted to be both Black and White. Not Whitney. She never left us, and she embraced us as we embraced her.
That’s why her death hurts so much. Because we feel like we are losing one of our own. Those other people won’t understand it. To them, she was the girl who sang the National Anthem and got a nation pumped for “Desert Storm;” just another talented singer who threw it all way. To us, she was family – we had something in common … and that was the greatest love of all.