You have to be carefully taught

On the news today, I saw the UK Labor Party has been accused of having a few anti-Semites. Not to be outdone, the UK Conservative Party has been accused of Islamophobia. And, as I wrote last week, hate crimes are on the rise in the US largely due to a rise in white nationalists who feel more empowered these days.

People are not born hating. They have to be taught. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote a key song in the musical play and movie “South Pacific” called “You have to be carefully taught.” The lyrics are noted below, but I wanted to mention the context of the play first.

“South Pacific” is a play about the idiocy and harm of bigotry. It was written in the 1949 as a clever metaphor to address the Jim Crow period in the US. Rodgers and Hammerstein knew they had to use a different setting to get their point heeded.

These lyrics are powerful. Please let them sink in as we all need to counter bigotry and racism we see and understand some of our own prejudices.

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

Let’s use this Thanksgiving to be thankful for and embrace our diversity. In fact, the first Thanksgiving brought two different groups together.

15 thoughts on “You have to be carefully taught

  1. Note to Readers: Watching “South Pacific” as a play is more moving than the film. The beauty of the location and love story take larger precedence in thr film. Watching the play, I remember having a more visceral reaction to the baked in bigotry of the girlfriend that she had to overcome.

    • I’ve watched South Pacific several times over the years, and its songs have followed me as well, especially this one.
      I was not aware, though, that SP had been produced as a non-musical piece.
      Have tried to find a video version of the non-musical version to watch…
      Can you suggest a source? Thanks.

      • Judy, thanks for stopping by. The play is a musical as well. When you see it as a play, the bigotry seems more real as it is right in front of you. Keith

    • Erika, so true. We need more people to step up and say, “Really? Is that how you feel or are you just saying that? I must tell you, I don’t see it that way.” Keith

      • Yes, yes, question what so many just do because they have always done it (or their parents, grandparents…). People need to start thinking their own thoughts!

      • Erika, good point. We do so many things by habit, which can be good or bad ones. If someone grows up hearing Grandpa demean people and thwn his Dad does it, it is hard to avoid that habit creeping in. Keith

  2. Note to Readers: This post is in follow-up to “The torch passes to us,” which was influenced by Jill’s recent post. Yet, Scottie posted a picture recently with a little toddler dressed in a KKK robe. It also reminded me a picture of a cub scout holding up a denigrating sign. It was not something that would receive a merit badge. Kids will emulate what they see. What do we want to show them?

  3. I promised Sheila I would get involved in any more brawls of Facebook with any intolerance of either side, although there is this stock photo I am still ready to use of the frozen corpse of a German soldier at Stalingrad to which is added comments such as ‘Are you ready to follow this?’ or ‘See how well it worked out for him,’.
    My main ire is for Labour Supporters, who are supposed to be socialists and thus should have an international outlook. Mention Israeli left wing parties such as Meretz or Hadash and there is a stunning silence. Hypocrites.

      • Roger, one of my least favorite terms is “walk it back.” It means the public figure screwed up in action or words and his or her handlers “walk it back” to try to unsay it or undo it.

        What people should pay attention to Trump is he will often double down after the “walk back” to the chagrin of his handlers. A great example is the white nationalists episode in Charlotteville, VA when the marchers were chanting “blood and soil” which is Nazism. When the woman was killed by a car, Trump stepped in it equivocating people defending their civil rights to those who want to deny them. After a half-ass apology three days later, he made it worse. In other words, he made it crystal clear he is a racist. It should be noted his economic advisor Gary Cohn typed up a resignation letter as he is Jewish. He decided to resign after the Tax Bill was passed four months later, but his was decision was made after Trump’s poor handling of Charlottesville. Keith

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