“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”

Rodgers and Hammerstein released their timeless musical, South Pacific in 1949.  It burst

South Pacific musical

South Pacific musical

on the post-WWII American society freshly aware of the people of the Pacific islands because of the war with Japan.  Two people falling in love struggle with their differences of race and background.  One of the songs, never reaching the heights of “Some Enchanted Evening,” explains that we aren’t born to hate and fear people different from ourselves.  we have to be carefully taught.   

“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 different 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!” 

The rampant racism in America during the late 40’s could be easily seen in the “Whites RacismOnly” restaurants and public bathrooms of the deep South.  Less obvious, the segregation of black families into ghettos and inferior schools in the North.  We were not born racist.  We learned to separate ourselves from the “other.”  It took the lives of black children, young men and Martin Luther King to wake us up from the racism we had been carefully taught.  It’s still dangerous in some communities for young black men.  Trayvon Martin’s death shocked America.

The racism rampant in the land called Holy today shows up in the massive “Berlin” wall snaking through the West Bank.  It keeps Israeli citizens from the “others” meaning Palestinians.  And vice-versa.  It even separates West Bank villages from each other, along with highways Palestinians use or cross only at their peril.  On their own land, their own country.

ApartheidLaws keep people apart.  Israelis are not allowed to visit Palestinians, nor can citizens of the West Bank enter Israel, except by special permission.  Apartheid that the world fought in South Africa is accepted as law.  Ethnic cleansing continues, displacing residents from their West Bank homes and farms daily.

How can such things go on in “the only democracy in the Middle East?”  How can citizens of Israel tolerate what their government is doing?  What effect is it having on the hearts and minds of Israelis?  How can one group of people be taught to persecute another as “other” and inferior?  What gives one people the idea they are “special” and therefore have the right to expel the “others” from their land.

You must be carefully taught.  You must not mix or even get acquainted with the others.  You must go to segregated schools.  Read your school textbooks.  Live in segregated neighborhoods.  Stay behind the “security” wall.  Then you will grow up having nothing to do with the “other.”  You will realize they are dangerous, the enemy.  You will learn to call them terrorists for resisting your country’s military occupation of the “other’s” land for 46 years.

You weren’t born to think or act this way.  You’ve got to be carefully taught.


About lpjohnson6

New prospective author
This entry was posted in Loosen chains of injustice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”

  1. That is a very powerful piece of writing and a reminder to us all. Who can teach us to love the other and undo all that was taught before? Will we have ears to hear?

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