So what do we do with our lives?
We leave only a mark.
Will our story shine like a light,
Or end in the dark?
Give it all or nothing!
We don’t need another hero
I just finished watching the Whitney Houston movie. From reports, her family was very upset about the portrayal, particularly the documentation of her drug abuse. Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law released the following statement:
I don’t think it ever entered their minds that they were assaulting the legacy of another individual; they just want the job or the opportunity to shine. But to do so in such an incredible way, to go after someone who cannot correct what you get wrong, someone who – like so many people, and especially women – struggled to hold up their humanity and live with dignity despite their personal challenges is wrong.
God gave us a gift in Whitney and she gave us her best, despite what stories are told. We will wear a breastplate of armor for Whitney and that’s what friends are for.
Why do we need to make the deceased perfect? Can a person still be our hero without making them angels here on earth? Or is it like we’ve always been told, “It’s wrong to speak ill of the dead?” De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (“Of the dead, nothing unless good.”).
Or let’s flip the question: How do you want to be spoken about when you’ve passed away?
Perfection seems too great of a burden in life and in death. The truth is always there. Does Whitney’s family think that we will forget Whitney’s emaciated appearance at the Michael Jackson’s 30th anniversary special, the “crack is whack” interview with Diane Sawyer, the way she leaped up and wrapped her legs around Bobby Brown when he was released from prison ?
It also seems more loving to speak of the complete person. I am sure that when I transition, my friends will get together in one of their family rooms with a lot of vodka and wine. They will laugh. Curled up on couches and lounging on the floor with some old school R&B playing, they will cackle, cry and tell stories.
“Girl, you remember that time she got on the stage and basically acted like she was part of the damn act.”
“What about when she bounced all of those checks because she spent all of her money to go see her boyfriend.”
“And did she know the right lyrics to even one song. She would be singing her ass off, not knowing one correct word.”
Real love is loving someone in spite of their flaws. Sometimes we love them because of their flaws.
Whitney was a mess. We laughed at her sometimes; she embarrassed us sometimes; but, we, her fans, loved her all the time. Her weaknesses made her human, approachable, relatable. Similarly, If you ask many people, they much prefer the old Mary J. Blige when she was rough-around-the-edges and in a crappy relationship over the polished, packaged woman who is presented to us today. People can’t find themselves in this new Mary.
Perhaps that is what we need in our heroes: someone who tells us that you don’t have to be perfect to be extraordinary. Perhaps by acknowledging the flaws in our heroes that have passed away; we can believe in the potential for our imperfect selves to do heroic things.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more