What Whitney Houston’s Story Taught Me About Race & History in America

Whitney Houston & Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard


The other night, I was hard pressed to find anything on TV that wasn’t about Whitney Houston.  I was really irritated.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed her music and have no bone with her or her choices; I just am tired of the media blowing celebrity deaths out of the water with coverage. It’s hard to get behind this obsession when I know thousands of regular people are dying every day too.  But, because I couldn’t find anything else to watch I left one show on as background noise while I worked.


Interracial Relationships on Film

A segment came on about The Bodyguard and the pivotal role it played in relation to race in America.  I’m fairly young and have just come to a point where certain milestone events in history seem like milestones and not just the way things are. In this segment the focus was on the relationship between Houston and Kevin Costner.  This on-screen relationship was the first interracial relationship that wasn’t the plot of the story.  There were of course other films with interracial couples but that relationship was the focus of the film.  In The Bodyguard the relationship wasn’t questioned, it wasn’t a plot line – it just was.  Hearing this made me look up and watch.

I feel really naive admitting this, but although I knew there was a time when interracial relationships were rare, frowned on and even illegal, I just had no reference for that.  Sure my husband and I have gotten a few strange looks here and there it was nothing to write home about.  There has been a lot more conflict when it comes to our faith. I have however grown up seeing mixed race couples in movies, on TV and in real life – it just doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore.

So in all of my disdain for the hyped media coverage, I am glad this segment aired to remind me of events like this. I often wonder if I were 20 years older, would my relationship and marriage have been tolerated as well as they are today?  I know so many mixed race couples who don’t even see race as part of the equation.  I am grateful for this advance, but know there is still a long way to go.