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Whitney Houston died at the age of 48. Most articles about her death said something like, “Houston struggled with drug and alcohol problems for years …”
But Houston also struggled with something else that black Republicans and black non-Democrats can understand: ridicule and ostracism for “selling out,” or “acting white,” or not being “black enough.”
Ebony, the black monthly magazine, wrote about the then-27-year-old: “Black disc jockeys have chided her for ‘not having soul’ and being ‘too white.’ … She was booed at the Soul Train Music Awards. … It’s enough to drive a good Christian girl to drink, drugs or at least to cursing. But not Whitney. Though it hurts her deeply, she handles it all with aplomb.”
After Houston’s marriage to Bobby Brown, and after years of Houston’s erratic behavior and rumors of drug abuse, I spoke to singer-actress Della Reese, a longtime Houston family friend. Reese and I were in the greenroom of a television studio, and we talked about Reese’s career. I told her that my mother remembered having seen a young Reese at a Washington, D.C., nightclub called either “The Cave” or “The Cove.”
She laughed and said, “The Cave.”
We talked about then-current Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown headlines. “I have a theory about Whitney Houston,” I said. “I’ve been called ‘Uncle Tom,’ and I know how that feels. I think Whitney was so hurt by being called a ‘sellout’ and ‘acting white’ — and crap like that — she wanted to change her image. What better way to do that than to marry a bad boy? And the drug abuse makes her a flawed person fighting to overcome her demons. Makes her relatable.”
Reese, a close friend of Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mom, said: “I know the family well. And there’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying.” Reese gave me permission to discuss our exchange, as long as I made one thing clear. Reese said: “The human voice is very forgiving, and Whitney is working things out. And she will come back.”
Black Republicans can relate to the name-calling.
A black St. Petersburg Times columnist wrote this about black Republicans: “Some creatures are just plain strange, making us do double takes because their compositions or habits or appearances defy our sense of logic and our way of viewing reality. Take the wildebeest, the warthog, the hyena, the brown pelican, the Shar-Pei. These animals, seemingly wrought by committee, make us laugh or shake our heads.
“Another such creature, of the human kind — and perhaps the strangest of all — is the black Republican.
… Black Republicans fail to understand that white Republicans will never accept them as equals. Although they will not acknowledge the truth, white Republicans, like most other whites, view black Republicans as strange creatures.”
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