Black America’s culture and role models

As reported at

Henry Hamilton, principal of the Whitney E. Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in East Orange, calls Houston a role model for his students. Houston attended the school when it was called the Franklin School, the school was later renamed to honor Houston

The woman, notwithstanding her fine appearance and powerful voice, was a drug addict who died as a result of her addictions. At least from her mid thirties, when she was one of the biggest stars in the world, she was, according to her own account, taking illicit drugs every day, thus destroying her talent, her career, and ultimately her life. But to black Americans she is a role model after whom they name their schools, the schools to which they send their children.

If white conservatives were not half-brain-dead or silenced by (understandable) fear, this is what they would say when they are told that we must all honor and respect blacks, that we must defer to blacks’ opinions and concerns, and that we must place blacks symbolically at the center of America:

“We are told to judge people by the content of their character. Black America makes drug addicts its role models. It names its schools after drug addicts. Does that indicate good character? No, it indicates extremely bad character. So why should whites treat black America with any particular deference or respect? Let black America change its character, and then we’ll talk about respecting it.”

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

The news story says the school was named for her in 1997. I don’t follow news stories about celebrity misdeeds, so the question is when Whitney Houston’s drug use became public knowledge. Was she, in fact, a good role model, as far as everyone knew, in 1997? A quick web search leads to a negative story from 2000, but no earlier.

LA replies:

She famously told Oprah Winfrey in a 2002 interview that she was a serious drug user, taking drugs every day. So for the last 10 years that school has been named for a publicly known drug addict.

Now am I saying that the school should instantly have changed its name when her drug addiction became known? Obviously that would create awkwardness. It’s understandable that they kept the name, at least for a while, as changing it would be a rejection of her when she was down. Yet at the same time think what it means that for ten years, while everyone knew that Whitney Houston was ruining herself with drugs, young black people kept attending a school called the Whitney Houston Academy. What sense would they have of themselves, of what is admirable and condemnable, good and bad, when the very school they were attending was named for a famous and famously self-destructive drug addict?

What all this points to is the deeper problem of the character of the black culture. The most prominent black figures, who are mainly entertainers and athletes, do tend to be involved, wildly disproportionately, in drugs, violence, and criminality. (Recently SBPDL had several articles on the fantastic criminal arrest records of black athletes.) In looking for “black role models” from among the most prominent blacks, blacks will tend to find extremely flawed and self-destructive people. Thus the problem of black character is not just that blacks choose to make heroes out of people they shouldn’t make heroes of; the problem is the underlying nature of black America itself.

Alexis Zarkov writes:

I think that many of Houston’s supporters would claim her substance abuse problems were a disability, not a character flaw. However there does seem to be something about the pop music industry that either attracts people prone to drug use, or actually causes it. The addiction to various mind altering drugs is not limited to blacks. White pop music artists also seem to kill themselves, or at least damage their health with drug use. I suspect the addiction come from having the money to buy drugs as well as peer pressure to join in. [LA replies: But how many white pop musician / drug users have schools named after them?]

As to when Houston’s substance abuse problems became public knowledge, I learned the following from reading her Wikipedia entry. In a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer (not Oprah) of CBS News, Houston denied crack use, but admitted to cocaine use. But in 2009, she admitted on television to Oprah Winfrey that she used drugs while married to Bobby Brown, “who laced marijuana with rock cocaine.” Rock cocaine is crack. She also admitted in that interview that “by 1996 [doing drugs] was an everyday thing … I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.” Thus it appears that 2002 is the earliest public admission of drug use.

As for naming schools after drug addicts, or other low life, that’s not usual in America. We have “Malcolm X” elementary schools in Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Berkeley. We have a Malcolm X Middle School in Milwaukee. Malcolm X High Schools in Newark and Madison. Columbia University has a Malcolm X Memorial Education Center. And so on. In 1987 mayor Ed Koch co-named Lenox Avenue, “Malcolm X Boulevard.” And so on. Malcolm X was an illiterate, a thief, a drug dealer and a pimp. Like Whitney Houston, a modern American icon.

LA replies:

Leaving aside the name of the interviewer, it appears I was wrong about when the extent of her addiction became known. She did not admit in 2002 to being a daily drug user in the ’90s. She only admitted that she used drugs, not how much she used them. It was not until 2009 that she spoke of her past (and presumably present) daily drug use.

This still leaves the embarassing fact of an “Academy” named for a person who, no matter how talented, was a crack addict.

Only in black America.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 16, 2012 09:50 AM | Send

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