In Robyn Crawford’s obituary of Whitney Houston in Esquire, Crawford says, “The record company, the band members, her family, her friends, me — she fed everybody. Deep down inside that’s what made her tired. It was never easy. She never left anything undone. But it was hard.” There is obviously a pattern in the way our culture expects women of color to take care of everyone, to take care of herself last (if at all). Why are we so surprised when they crack? Why do we forget about their humanity?
Whitney was not only a drug addict. She was a mother, she was a wife, she was a daughter, a friend, and an artist. We know that she was a survivor of domestic abuse, which is a harder situation for Black women to deal with because of the racial injustice in the criminal justice system. We know that she was famous, so she was hypervisible and overcriticized for the decisions she made.
It isn’t fair to judge Whitney without keeping in mind that she was a human being, a Black woman, in a tough situation. African-American women are more likely to suffer from domestic violence than any other race. Women who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to suffer from domestic violence, and men who abuse drugs are more likely to commit it. It also isn’t fair to demonize Whitney for her drug abuse and its affect on her, but ignore its affects on artists like Jim Morrison, Michael Jackson, or Jimi Hendrix.
Keir Bristol, Whitney: The Victim of the “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype, Racialicious 2/23/12.
This. All. Day.