Even in death, the original perception of Whitney Houston — that of something short of regal, befitting of a person with such a splendid gift of song — continues to cloud reality.
It’s a concept of Whitney Houston that even the real Whitney sought to counter. In her 1995 VIBE cover story, the now fallen singer flatly declared, “I come from Newark, born and raised in New Hope Baptist Church. All-girl school, mostly white girl, yeah—but this is what I am. This is what I’m used to. This is what I like. What you all may think it is, it ain’t.” To put it even more bluntly she said, “Whoever set this little story up before I got here, it’s changed. It’s different. I’m not Diana [Ross]. I’m not.”
She made these comments in reference to criticism of her that began when her relationship with Bobby Brown started in 1989, intensified in 1992, and has found its way back into the conversation in 2012 following her untimely death. Prefacing her position with “I’m not the one to be talking about black and white issues,” Houston offered an honest assessment of the flack she and her then-husband were getting. She said, “But we all know who runs this whole thing — we all know who’s in power right? Well when they saw me they saw me as their little princess and [figured] ‘She’s going to marry a white man,’ or whatever.”
MEMBERS OF WHITNEY HOUSTON’S HOME CHURCH REACT:
Perhaps it was about race, but it may have been more about pedigree. Regardless, people didn’t like their princess being with a sinking R&B star known for arrests, lewdness and everything else antithetical to what made Whitney Houston such a global celebrity. To this day, many still don’t get it and ask, ‘How could she have married him?’ The answer is as clear then as it is now: Because she wanted to.
That has never been a good enough answer for some, though, which always made Bobby an easy target. I imagine he’s used to it, but there’s something to be said about timing. Anyone who’s been paying attention to the coverage of the megastar’s death has more than likely caught on to the subtle and not-so-subtle attempts by various members of the press to link Whitney’s death with him. Select Whitney Houston fans have used social media to chime in with their shared suspicions, writing such harsh comments like “Bobby Brown you took our diva and turned her into an addict.”
It’s not surprising people feel this way. Their tumultuous marriage and all the mental, physical, and verbal abuse charges that came with it, left a lasting impression on the public. As did the couple’s ugliest public episode — the reality series Being Bobby Brown, an inside look at how two troubled people co-habitate and engage in co-dependency. But no matter how conceivable it is for people to develop the perception that it’s all Bobby Brown’s fault, it doesn’t make it true.
I love Whitney Houston and will forever appreciate the mark she left on the world, but nevertheless it’s unfair to point fingers at someone as the source of problems that were long rumored to have been present before they arrived.
Following the end of their marriage in 2007, both Bobby and Whitney offered their perspectives on the relationship. Referring to her ex as “her drug” a candid Whitney told Oprah Winfrey, “I was so weak to him. I was so weak to the love.” As for Bobby, he actually once accused Whitney of introducing him to cocaine, though in a separate interview acknowledged what truly led him to addiction. “I did drugs because I was lonely and thought no one cared for me. I take full responsibility for everything I’ve done. I’m just grateful to be where I am now.”
Each response points to what typically spurs an addiction: A lingering pain and the desire to escape it.
Speaking with E! News gossip columnist Ted Casablanca, an unnamed “friend” of Whitney Houston dismissed talk of Bobby being to blame by noting, “It was Whitney herself. I think even she has admitted that. And Bobby never forced her to do anything. These were her choices.”
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.
Follow Michael Arceneaux on Twitter at @youngsinick.