Carefully Taught

In 1949, many critics demanded Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II remove the following song from their new Broadway musical South Pacific.

These naysayers predicted the number would/should doom the production because it justified interracial marriage and offended the standards of decency commonly accepted in musical theater. Rodgers and Hammerstein fought boldly for it, claiming the song represented one of the key reasons they wrote the show in the first place.

In the end, the song stayed; and South Pacific won the Tony for Best Musical and Best Score.

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.

(“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific / Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II)

How do we teach ourselves and others these lessons without even realizing it? And what can we do in everyday life to reverse the lessons of racism we teach and are taught?

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Comments
3 Responses to “Carefully Taught”
  1. Connie Wiggs says:

    I have to say that I have never heard this song before. This absolutely breaks my heart but it is so true that we do teach our children through our words and actions:( Thank you for this post as it certainly has made me think of things that I may say or do because someone is always watching!

    • JCM says:

      Thanks, Connie. A lot of people don’t know the song or have forgotten it, but it was quite controversial back in the late 40s!

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