Friday, July 23, 2010

You've Got to be Carefully Taught

This week the news cycle has been dominated by stories about race relations in our country. Accusations of racism fly from both sides of the political aisle and the quickest way to end substantive debate on any issue is to inject race. It makes me sad that we're still dealing with this. I wonder how to break the cycle.

In 1949 Rogers and Hammerstein brought South Pacific to the Broadway stage. It's a wonderful musical with memorable characters and terrific music.

It's also about racism.

Even though I'll bet lots of you can hum "Some Enchanted Evening," there's one song that almost scuttled the production, but the lyricist and composer wouldn't mount the show without it. It's called "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." Here are the lyrics:
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!

When my kids were little, my DH and I worked with the youth group at our church. It was a racially diverse bunch and because we were so involved with the teens, our girls got to know and love them all.

One day my oldest daughter, who was about 6 at the time, said, "Mom, Andre is different from us."

We'd never talked to our children about race. "Oh?" I said cautiously.

"Yeah, he's got really curly hair."

She hadn't noticed this fine young man's chocolate skin. Since everyone in our house has hair that hangs straight as a horse's tail, she'd been fascinated by Andre's curly hair. And probably more than a little jealous!

I think about that moment whenever I hear about racism allegations. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw each other only as members of the race we all share--the human race?

And taught our children to do the same.

PS. On a much lighter note, I'm blogging at The Chatelaines today about summer fun and ideas for making a memory with your fam.


Marcy W said...

And I'll be happily humming that tune all day, thanks.

EmilyBryan said...

You're welcome, Marcy. Sometimes, I don't mind getting songs stuck in my head.

It's only when it's something stupid like Louie, Louie that "earworms" drive me crazy.