Lists, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay, Uncategorized

Feeling Bad For Bobby, and More Thoughts About Whitney Houston’s Funeral

1. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to the way I react when hearing about a person dying. None whatsoever. It’s completely unpredictable, completely arbitrary, and completely dependent on… whatever the hell it’s dependent on. I have absolutely no clue, and I’ve stopped trying to figure it out. There have been times when a one paragraph long news story about some random area murder induced tears and haunted me for weeks, and other times when family members have passed and the only time I got worked up was when I forced myself to get worked up because I felt bad that I hadn’t.

This “reaction unpredictability” extends to celebrities as well. I felt nothing when Michael Jackson — a person who I was a huge fan of — died, but the deaths of Amy Winehouse — a person I was “eh” about — and Patrice O’Neal still resonate with me. I still can’t listen to “Rehab” or watch “Elephant in The Room” without getting chills.

Knowing how unpredictable I can be about this should make me immune to surprise. I mean, If I’m capable of any reaction, there shouldn’t be a reaction that surprises me. Despite this, I was (and still am) surprised at how affected I was by the news of Whitney Houston’s death (When first clicking the TMZ link to the news of her death, I literally stared at my monitor with my mouth agape for two minutes and could see my heart beating through my shirt) and how interested I was in the goings-on (and the public’s feelings about the goings-on) of her funeral.

Although I wasn’t able to catch the first hour and a half or so (I started watching when Stevie Wonder was singing), I sat there captivated like I was watching the 4th quarter of game seven of the NBA finals. And, as if this captivation wasn’t enough, I logged on to Twitter and Facebook to basically give myself a sensory overload.

I don’t know what any of this means, or why I even felt the need to share it. I don’t know. I do know that it’s been (over) a week and I’m still surprised that I still don’t feel any different.

2. There have been myriad different accounts of the events that led to Bobby Brown leaving (or getting kicked out of) Whitney’s funeral, so I won’t go into any of them. I will say, though, that I feel worse for him than for anyone else who was in Whitney’s life. Losing your ex-wife (a woman I’m sure he still loved and may have still been in love with) is bad enough, but being the popular scapegoat for the decades-long spiral leading to her early death has to be a bitch of a burden to carry. History will not look kindly on him. Regardless of what he does for the rest of his life, his primary legacy will be that he, to put it bluntly, killed Whitney Houston.

Now, whether this legacy is actually fair is another question. We assume that Bobby was the bad influence, but while Whitney was America’s Sweetheart, she wasn’t exactly an angel herself. Also, as influential as Clive Davis was reported to be in her life, who’s to say that he didn’t have a hand in her downfall?

Obviously, this is all speculation. None of us know exactly what led to Whitney’s substance abuse problems. And, since none of us know, perhaps we should place a collective moratorium on “Blame Bobby.”

3. I happened to be at my parent’s house when the funeral was being aired. When R.Kelly came to the podium, all three of us said “Wait. Is that R.Kelly???” at the exact same time. No bullsh*t.

And (in my best Forrest Gump voice), “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”

4. I know many people had an issue with some of the “So, America, make sure you’re recording so you can see how these exotic-ass Negros celebrate the dead” -ey comments from some of the non-black members of the news media covering the event. In particular, Piers Morgan sounded like he was covering at an event at Jurassic Park.

I didn’t have a problem with this, though. I mean, aside from random Nike commercials and Tyler Perry movies (which white people don’t watch anyway), this probably was the first time many of them had seen a homegoing at a black baptist church, and I think most of the non-white reporters found the proper mix of reverence, respect, and curiosity.

Also, aside from the celebrities involved, Whitney’s ceremony wasn’t all that atypical. Seriously, if you substituted “random white co-worker who seems out of place but makes up for it with a poignant speech” for “Kevin Costner,” “aunt who does her thing on the organ even though she tends to forget words to certain songs” for “Stevie Wonder,” and “neighborhood family who no one wants to fight because there’s like 25737848 of those motherf*ckers and you know if you fight one, you’ll have to fight them all” for “The Winans,” this funeral was probably exactly like any other baptist funeral any one reading this has ever been to.

5. I’m not sure if the fact that I simultaneously “experienced” the funeral with over a thousand others on Twitter — all with their own running commentary about the event — was a good or a bad thing. Actually, I’m pretty certain it’s neither. It’s not disrespectful or distant or progressive or indicative of anything, either. It just is. That’s just the way we deal with things today. While other generations had their own forms of collective consumption, we just do it in real time.

6. So, ever since a certain post I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ve been more willing to let certain people take a look at articles I write before I submit them, just in case they pick up on something that I may have missed. Don’t fret. You’re not going to get a neutered Champ or anything. This is something I’ve always done. Just do it a little more often now.

Anyway, last Friday, I let one of these friends see an article I wrote for Ebony about Chris Brown. That article contained a somewhat off-color joke about Tyler Perry. Her response:

“I dont usually discourage Tyler Perry jabs, but this m**therf**er just flew Whitney Houston’s body to her family in his private jet. HE ALWAYS DOES THIS SH*T. Like, whenever I want to take a shot at him, he adopts some orphan or saves a kitten or some sh*t and makes me feel bad afterwards. Anyway, you should probably leave that out.”

I (reluctantly) listened.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

***Oh, check out the Chris Brown piece I just referenced — “The (Biggest) Problem with Chris Brown isn’t Chris Brown” — if you get a chance. (#teambreezy, beware)***

Also, don’t forget about the VSB/Urban Cusp discussion on Black Identity & Culture in Mass Media panel coming up on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 from 6-8PM at the Washington Post Buildling. It’s going to be a dope conversation, I promise. Plus you can hang with Panama Jackson and throw things at people. It’s free and food will be provided. Not like half chickens or nothing, but finger foods and whatnot. See you there. Peep the flyer below.
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.


  • lotusflower11

    I missed most of it because I was at work. But the end where they carried out her casket to I Will Always Love You was so touching. Also, Kevin Costner looks really good for his age.

  • Her death stunned me more than MJ no doubt. We honestly don’t know what happened between she and Bobby. All I can say is I wish he would have stayed to support his daugter. Nothing else was more important that day than to support her as she said goodbye to her mother.

  • I feel the same way, except for being surprised about R. Kelly being there. I learned from the Oprah Winfrey 2009 interview that he wrote “I Turn To You” for Whitney 10 or 15 years prior. So, it made sense to me that he was there and that he sung that song. You didn’t mention the controversy over Gov. Christie flying flags at half-staff; I got into a somewhat healthy online debate with someone about that. I was actually touched by his decision to do that; certainly didn’t expect him too, especially since he’s a Republican.

  • Thai

    This sh*t right here ninja…Am I the only one who thought Bebe Winans speech was…i don’t know how to describe it so ima just say off.

  • I didn’t have it in me to watch Whitney’s funeral. But I feel so sorry for Bobby Brown, he got played. From what I understand was, he was told he could bring his current wife and all 8 of his other children. The ushers then paraded all of them down the main aisle of the church, where he was told there were only 3 seats. He was going to tell his kids to sit in the back and just sit with his wife, but ‘someone’ made a big commotion so he kissed Bobbi Kristina, Whitney’s casket, and left.

    Also, did you see people posting pics of themselves on twitter watching Whitney’s funeral? Folks were dressed up like they were there – hats, black veils, dresses, etc

  • SororSalsa

    Two thoughts about the funeral:

    1) Why…mainstream media kept referring to Bobby’s kids as his “entourage”. Really white people???? They didn’t even bother to pretend like they wanted to know who Bobby came with….instead, they treated him like he was rolling to the club, hangers-on in tow.

    2) Bobby had seating issues, but R Kelly got invited….again, really????

  • Leila

    Whitney’s death really hit me hard. I didn’t really have a reaction when MJ died and I loved his music, but for some reason I cried a lot when I found out about Whitney. I’ve been glued to the tv, going through her music videos, watched the tributes on tv, and the whole funeral.

    I also feel bad for Bobby. He never catches a break and is always painted as the bad guy but from a friend that knows him personally, she said he’s a really nice guy. The media needs to leave these artists alone and let them be.

  • Kidsister

    “this probably was the first time many of them had seen a homegoing at a black baptist church”

    I said the exact same thing to my aunt.

    As for Bobby B. I read somewhere that it was to be him plus two guests but he showed up with 10 people. That sounds like a Bobby B. move. I understand that Cissy may have whatever ill feelings toward him but at the end of the day he will always be the father of Whitney’s only child. I think he should’ve been in the first pew with them. I also think this should’ve been the one time that he decided not make waves. Disclaimer: those are my feelings based on what I read. I know that there are always three sides to every story. I don’t doubt for a second that there was a chance that he was the receipient of a lot of shade.

    SN: I’m a Chris Brown fan but I recognize that that young man has issues. Having said that I am going to read the article about him. I’m kind of scared of what I might find :-/

  • Mztonichilds

    Piers Morgan wasn’t as annoying as Soledad Obrien. She pissed me off when she asked, “So how long does a baptist funeral usually last?” As much as she represents for the black community and her own “blackness,” I was shocked at what she didn’t know. That was not the time to be curious, and I found their commentary quite annoying. Then they called the pulpit a “stage.” Come On Son.

More Like This