I Will Always Love You.

A Whitney Houston song was on the radio this morning – that one from The Bodyguard – and instead of turning the station like I would normally do, I sat and listened to it from beginning to end. I have liked some Whitney Houston songs here and there, but generally that style of music is not my thing. No doubt – empirically – I have to say – that woman has a fabulous voice.

Although – the song from the Bodyguard was never one of my faves. It’s schmaltzy. But again, it really showcases all the nuances in Whitney’s voice – from the feather-light beginning to that gigantic note at the end.

When it floated across my radio this morning, I was brought back to a very specific point in time, when that song was all over the radio every minute of the day and when someone close to me said something I will never forget.

“That damn *n* can’t hold a candle to Dolly.”

If you didn’t know, “I Will Always Love You” is actually a cover of a Dolly Parton song.

What I didn’t know, didn’t *really* know, up until that point, is how insidious racism is and how it can color every thing – even something as mundane as a pop song.

The comment wasn’t, “I like Dolly Parton’s version better.”

It was a racial slur, like the color of Whitney’s skin made her vocal chords sound different. Like somehow Dolly’s were better, because her vocal chords were underneath white skin.

I remember being shocked, at that word, sure – but more that some I knew and loved would actually feel that way. That I would never know it. That it would just come up randomly in conversation one day, over some song on the radio.

And that I would remember that conversation, just like it was yesterday, for the rest of my life.

And that I could still love that person, even though I was shocked at how they felt, and what they said, and how much I disagreed with him, and how much I was ready to fight with him over simple song that hid some many other things underneath it, but I didn’t know how – because I just didn’t understand.

I understand now, but he is here not here anymore.

Which made me even more sad when I heard those first few words whispered from Whitney’s lips this morning.


Please see the comments for a conversation about what I meant about understanding.
I will *never* understand racism.

This article has 21 comments

  1. Fruitlady

    I love Whitney’s version and Dolly’s version and nothing about either of their skin tones reflects why I like their versions. I wrote about racism today too. It’s seems we are on very similar wave lengths my dear. 🙂

  2. Anonymous

    Gorgeous post. Thanks for sharing. – m

  3. Meghann

    The two versions of the song are vastly different, but it has nothing to do with skin color.

    I was raised in a family where I heard that word. From some of the people I looked up to the most, even.

    I’ve turned the tide though, and my kids haven’t heard that word yet. They weren’t even aware people cared about skin color until we watched a dvd about American history last month.

    They were shocked, horrified, and confused as to why anyone would think that way. So I like to think I’ve at least done *that* right.

  4. Leigh


  5. Fiona @Banteringblonde

    I once dated a guy that I felt I knew pretty well – I remember to this day, probably 20+ years later, exactly where we were and the words that came out of his mouth. I’ve never heard the specific word again in my life but it jolted me because it was directed towards two black children that I had smiled at and commented on how adorable they were. It changed everything in a split second and taught me to dig deeper before I thought I knew someone. I can almost feel the hollow thud in my chest right now. I totally relate to your “I don’t understand” and I can imagine that if it was someone close to you it would hit even harder.

  6. Sam


    Love & hate.

    Love wins. Always.

  7. Anonymous

    This reminds me of the same exact “debate” I encountered entering college in the fall of 1994. I was among the minority who thought Whitney was decent, and all of us who did, had been in more urban, or at least suburban areas. Everyone else, from more rural areas, were Dolly.

    It bothered me then. Bothers me now.

  8. Carrie

    Great post Aimee. It is amazing to me how I’ll still hear that word used and it still shocks me and saddens me that people are so full of hatred.

  9. Anonymous

    It’s hard though, no, to not always feel just a little bit different about someone when you recognize that quality in them?

  10. Anonymous

    hey that anonymous was me. Wouldn’t let me leave my name.

  11. eurooms

    i know you do :)))))

  12. Kim Hosey

    It is tough; you’re right. Strong cognitive dissonance, almost, to care about someone and know they have this inside. And still care, about it and them.

    It is sad.

  13. EatPlayLove

    I’m always amazed at how a little whisper can take us back so clearly to a defining moment.

  14. Karen/Chookooloonks

    Hi, Aimee –

    I’ve thought about this, and then came back to it, so I figured I’d leave a comment —

    I’m confused about what “you understand now” — can you clarify?



  15. Anonymous

    It’s incredible the way things can be revealed and then later, the things hat bring them back.

    Love your writing in this post.

    Also, the Eat Play Love comment now has Careless Whisper by George Michael stuck in my head.

  16. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Karen – I can see how that might be misunderstood, so thanks for asking. What I meant was that I didn’t understand how to argue with him – I was too young, immature, shocked…that I just sort of stood there suspended in time. That I understand now what I would say, have better tools to react and talk it through with him. But he has passed, so I won’t have the opportunity to do that.

  17. zipper

    I love how you captured such a complicated subject.

  18. Karen/Chookooloonks

    🙂 Thanks for the clarification, Aimee.

  19. monstergirlee

    I keep thinking about this post, and remember when I realized my Dad was a total Male Chauvinist Pig (remember that phrase?) and it kind of hurt me inside.
    I love him anyway.
    But its tough when you find out things like that.

  20. D. Marie

    I hear you and, yes, racism is still alive and well. What’s the saying? “Hate the sin, love the sinner”? I agree with @Sam: Love wins.

  21. Sara (from Saving for Someday)

    Going through my reader and came across this starred post. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stood among my friends, my business associates, my colleagues, my peers and have heard ‘the n-word’ or some other derogation to a race of people of which their creamy whiteness would have nothing to do with. Only I stood there as a Jewish woman, being insulted by a derogation about Jewish. Or as a woman married to a black man, listening to someone spew hatred about my family. I still don’t know what to say to them. Possibly the look of horror on my face is sufficient.

    Thank you Aimee for sharing this. It is a reminder that for as open and accepting as we may be, others may not be. Nevertheless, it is a sign of ones character.

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