The black community must learn from Whitney Houston’s death

The black music industry is extravagantly proud of its stars – until, that is, they turn themselves into ghoulish human wrecks as a result of taking Class A drugs. This is kind of a delicate point to make, but some of those poisonous narcotics are chiefly associated with the black community. So it would be nice, don’t you think, if its leaders tried to avert the sort of desperate tragedy we witnessed on Sunday – I’m talking, of course, about the death of Whitney Houston.

Now, so far as we know, the 48-year-old diva drowned in the bath after dosing herself with “downers” – prescription tranquillisers that take the edge off the wild jitters produced by an overdose of “uppers”. Whitney was a long-time user of crack cocaine – which, even if it’s politically incorrect to say so, is the drug of choice in black ghettoes and among soul singers with nasty friends.

Here’s a radical proposal: since the black community has a problem with crack, why doesn’t it mount a huge, high-profile campaign to stop the likes of Whitney and her low-life enablers from sliding into this particular addiction? It’s a tough one to beat. Whitney tried, God knows – but there was always some scumbag ready to set her off again.

If you want to understand the big picture, you need to study the paranoid narrative of self-pity that’s drummed into young blacks. Everything is the fault of white society – including devastating drug addictions. Well, perhaps that’s true, up to a point. But I’m sick to death of hearing drug epidemics in black American neighbourhoods explained by the sort of conspiracy theory that has the Federal Government cooking up HIV in its labs as a way of enslaving the negro population.

Maybe the long-predicted death of Whitney Houston will shame “community leaders” such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson into facing the scale of the problem and shaming the black music industry – whose awards ceremonies have in the past been reduced to chaos by wildly intoxicated attendees – to face up to its responsibilities. But, then again, given that we’re talking about world-class purveyors of flatulent rhetoric, don’t hold your breath.

There’s also the problem of domestic violence, a subject never far from the headlines where black female musicians are concerned. Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and, more recently, Rihanna have all been on the receiving end of a slap from their partners. But in each case the violent, often drink- and drug-fuelled excesses of their other halves is quickly forgotten by the entertainment industries and the media. (Even though, let’s face it, dem bitches was probly askin’ for it.)

Just this week, we were treated to unedifying scenes at the Grammy Awards as Rihanna-basher Chris Brown was invited to perform – twice. The man is remarkably unrepentant in interviews, petulantly changing the subject when presenters have the temerity to bring up his wife-beating past, insisting that he’s “served his time” and that he’s only there to speak about his latest album release.

As devastating a problem as drug use is in many black households, domestic violence against women is, if anything, even more commonplace. Yet the sort of exploitation that may have contributed to Whitney’s despair and collapse into substance abuse is routinely ignored when it’s a famous rapper extending his fist.

Because Whitney Houston was a celebrity, she had access to a smorgasbord of prescription medication that she used to manage her comedowns from a dirty street drug. But in most respects she was no different to any other downtrodden and hopeless addict. And her behaviour legitimises the use of crack as an escape mechanism for a thousand women in similarly oppressive home environments.

Yet the black community, aside from a few nauseatingly lavish tributes to Houston’s vocal gifts – most of which seem to skip over the sorry circumstances of her death, as if they were somehow irrelevant because she had a few hit songs in the 90s – is missing an opportunity to re-educate young people about the evils of addictions.

RIP, Whitney. Who’s next?

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