Yesterday afternoon the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office officially laid all speculation to rest after they released Ms. Whitney Houston’s official cause of death. She died from an accidental drowning, with cocaine use and heart disease listed as contributing factors. Equally troubling, she had negligible amounts of marijauna, Xanax, Benadryl, and Flexeril in her system.

While Whitney’s illicit drug use will dominate news coverage for the next few weeks, the iconic R&B songstress is unfortunately another victim of heart disease — the number one killer of African-American woman and men. Even though her death was ruled an accidental drowning, more than likely, as the coroner’s official spokesman explained, Whitney may have still been here if her heart was healthy.

Atherosclerotic heart disease is unfortunately a common disease that materializes when plaque build-up within the arteries hardens, eventually blocking the blood going to the heart and other organs. Atherosclerosis can lead to stroke, heart attack, and death, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute explains.

Heart disease is a completely unnecessary disease. Lately, meat consumption has been the culprit in numerous studies about cause of heart disease. Meanwhile, a wide array of unhealthy lifestyle factors have flew under the radar as scientists try to pinpoint a single factor for American’s rise in heart disease-related deaths. Whitney’s long-term use of cocaine probably exacerbated her condition along with her alcohol abuse, smoking, bad diet, and touring schedules — which even stresses out seemingly healthy young starlets.

As studies continue to demonstrate how a healthy diet and daily exercise can reverse heart disease, the number of deaths continues to rise. Deaths due to heart disease are highest among non-Hispanic blacks, irrespective of class status. Sadly, it seems as if we continue to use our bodies as vessels instead of temples, leaving hurt and pain behind to love ones rather than honoring our lives with health-sustaining practices.

And a scattered and unsettled legacy is what Whitney Houston has left her family, friends, and fans. Whitney’s meteoric rise to fame and fortune in the late 1980s and early 90s opened the world’s material treasures to her at a young age. We can only imagine how the New Jersey pop-sensation, who was raised in the church, felt as the sweet aroma of success engulfed her senses, never knowing it would eventually create an intricate public life of perpetual liminality.

Now that the public knows that Whitney had fully relapsed, after reports claimed she had put down cocaine, the focus should shift to our society’s preoccupation with denial and secrecy.

All general conversations about dysfunction and denial should start from the top-down because power loves to hide in plain view. For example, we can start off with the egregious wealth destroying games played at Goldman Sachs or The Obama Administration’s pejorative stance against WikiLeaks and whistleblower Bradley Manning all of which underscores our culture’s reprehensible reluctance to demand transparency from our leaders.

Even our grand sporting institutions are deeply invested in surreptitiousness. From the Penn State scandal to the current NFL bounty system, centralized power continues exhibit inherent deficiencies, a propensity to lie and cover-up facts in a effort to keep up an appearance of viability.

Tragically, many of us individually are mimicking these larger entities, publicly branding ourselves as marketable commodities with pristine personalities and a controlled edginess, a violent side needed to maintain the facade of power and control.

In Whitney’s case specifically, much to her chagrin, she couldn’t shake her drug-laden performances and failed attempts to recapture the magic behind her “brand.” She lost herself because she couldn’t forgive herself, and it seems as if everyone around her was either an enabler or in denial.

Sadly, Whitney’s inner circle is a microcosm of what it takes for a larger institution to keep up the veil of control and power: complicity. Much like what we are currently witnessing with some in the NFL brass, who are actively shaming “snitches” in order to preserve secrets, there has to be enablers and deniers who will step out in front of the public and befuddle any meaningful dialouge.

As TMZ reported, and the Beverly Hills Police Department confirmed, there was no cocaine in her suite even though the coroner’s office divulged Whitney used cocaine minutes before drowning. Apparently, someone in her circle cleaned up the evidence before the authorities arrived.  But what seems worse is the subsequent denial to cover up the truth to the public, maintaining she was only struggling with pharmaceuticals (leading to specious pop-doctor debates over America’s prescription drug abuse) when the conversation could’ve moved past her obvious illicit drug abuse into a more healing dialoge that dealt with the debilitating effects of enablers, deniers, and the way we treat our fellow humans when they are down.

Oprah’s interview with Whitney’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, her manager and sister-in-law Pat Houston, and her brother Gary is now a fiasco. Additionally, her reportedly friendly relationship with Ray J will undeniably come under scrutiny, as questions surrounding the true nature of their bond will hound the reality show star from here on out. Not to forget, the many celebrity friends, most notably Kelly Price, who sang with Whitney during Grammy weekend and claimed on CNN “[she] didn’t look like she was under the influence of anything.”

All of this is eerily similar to what we hear when a larger entity is clamoring to make sure all their wheels don’t fall off. No one is accountable and no one knows anything until it’s too late (see the 2007 derivatives and sub-prime mortgage catastrophe). We have to decolonize our minds to the idea of power and control, which are illusions by definition and rest upon secrecy, denial, and violence to maintain their relevance in society.

Whitney’s tragic death is just a minute example of a larger systemic issue that is literally killing our communities. We cannot have men concealing illnesses — mental or physical — from their communities because they do not want to hear what a doctor may or may not say to them. In the same vein, we can’t have black women holding on to dysfunctional situations because of this myth of their supernatural strength, allowing stress and disease to spread throughout their bodies. We have to open ourselves completely to love and not choose the easy way out through the disease of denial.

around the web


  1. This article says it all. And what’s so hurting and disturbing to me is Whitney brought her discontinued of her drug use to public, on talk shows etc. but yet she is still using and her people and friends were going along with this LIE. I put some of the blame on all of the inabalers associates around Whitney. Whitney is no doubt the blame for her demise. But these people (Pat Houston and her husband Ray j to the sex addict) these people should look inside of themselves and ask forgiveness for failing Whitney. How are you going to manage someone who is not on a healthy path?

  2. Pamela Diva Deal

    I am so sorry for the loss of such a musical giant , but we need to remember she was human,had feelings, so when people hurt ,we are subject to anything. I wish that this would die soon ,so that her family my have closer . Whitney is at rest and at peace with this world. So those that judge be careful ,you just never know who ,when ,or where your life will lead you. All paths that are taken can be hard but the way we handle them is the test.My God continue to bless Ms.Houston’s Family and Close Friends in this hour of sorrow for a life well lived. God speed Whitney R.I.P

  3. Whitney was had a beautiful soul that shined bright even when she was at her lowest. I agree that we are automatizing our lives to gain material wealth. Malice from Clipse was on the Breakfast Klub yesterday in New York and said he was so unhappy after he got everything he ever dreamed of. We have to see that we have to love ourselves and nothing material can fill that void.

  4. Self Promotion

    What a fine, well written and well express article this is!

  5. I am in agreement with a lot you say but I also feel you need to point out that unless you researched her life prior to the fall into dependency on illegal drugs, you can’t call her another African American woman who died of heart disease. Are you telling us she always suffered from a heart ailment or was that heart condition caused by the constant drug use over the years. Your dealing with two different scenarios there.

    Also, it’s pretty obvious she was in denial and not in control of her life. AND SO WAS HER FAMILY. And the real sad part…this family and her friends are still in denial. If her family and friends had really meant to help her they should have put immediate stop to the performances and tours that she could longer do. The voice was gone. She couldn’t remember lyrics and looked like she was going to pass out on stage. I think most of us knew then it was really over and it was only a matter of time. This problem is nothing new to this family as we know from her brothers’ arrests and usage and other extended family with drinking and drug problems.

    So if none of this was new to them, then why put her out there, party with her and watch her self-destruct? It took them 15 years to step in and do something about getting her out of marriage and self driven destructive path she was on with Brown. Did they truly believe she had another 15 left if she couldn’t stay sober? After that “crack is whack” interview, mama should have busted the front door down then and there and got her the heck out of Dodge.

    And they knew she couldn’t. They knew….

    It not the denials so much as the its the damn lies. Lies about what was happening with and around her and lies about who knew and who covered up.

    Everybody who made money off her or got high with her, knew what was going on. They are still trying to make money off her (nothing ever changes there in the entertainment world) extend their own personal 15 minutes of fame. The people she interacted with in the last 3 days saw and knew and they are all still covering up. Unfortunately, this INNER circle includes her family.

  6. This article is very well done. Thanks Shane n ^5 @ Cheryl! Man, I thank God that my peeps won’t EVER let me go out like that. I mean… what a big mess! I can barely hold her inner circle accountable because they too were, “Partying” and apparently not to be trusted with another persons life. Money. Rich or poor be very selective about who who choose to be your road dogs. ,the lifestyle of some of the rich and famous is such that it requires ALOT of interaction with very skillful connects in oder to make a “Superstar” a superstar. I can see how one can loose oneself. There are so many hands in the pot, and the pot happens to be ME. I don’t know who I am anymore. Listen, we are our brother’s keeper, and it’s not for gain.

  7. Things don’t add up–people were in her room, they did not see the water coming from the bathroom. Why did Whitney call several people before her death and everyone said they missed her call? If you have a seizure, wouldn’t you make some kind of sound? Whitney is known not to take bathes, why now? Was she put in the tub to make it seem like she drowned? First the report said their weren’t enough water in her lungs for her to drown and the report comes back that she drowned? Apparently, she wasn’t doing cocaine because they only found small levels of everything? There seem to be a cover-up? Why is her cause of death made so public? Where were her bodyguards? Is there more to the report that they are not reporting at the request of the family? Her mother said she spoke to her 20 to 30 minutes prior to her death? However, no one seem surprise of her death if she did get off drugs. Why is the family auctioning off her things so fast? Too many questions, I would think the hot water would have had her crying for help. It seem she was giving people clues all week that she would no longer be around. Maybe there is more to this and the family is hiding — she went to the doctor three or four times during that week, why? It doesn’t add up.



  8. Addiction is a complicated issue. At the end of the day if the addict can’t chose not to do drugs there is nothing anyone else can do for them. Addiction is a family disease – everyone participates. This family is just an example of what so many suffer from – we need to talk about how to help enablers and addicts to find new ways to deal with this disease. One day at a time. Progress not perfection. Don’t play the blame game.

Leave a Reply