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You’ve Got To Be Taught Before Its Too Late

I was exposed to musicals pretty early. Growing up, The Schubert in New Haven was the testing grounds and world premier for most the classic musicals you can think of. I would go a few times. The most memorable show was “The Sound of Music” staring Mary Martin and Theordore Bikel. Breathtaking. But there was also the Oakdale, which at that time was a huge tent with seating around a rotating stage. Now, of course, both venues have changed radically. The Oakdale is a fancy indoor auditorium, and The Schubert host traveling Broadway shows rather than premier them. I don’t remember when I first saw South Pacific, the epic show based on James Michener’s novel about life on a Polynesian Island during WW2. But what I do remember is my father explaining to me the prejudice that the American military showed to the natives of the island. There was one song in particular that still haunts me to this day. It was called “You’ve Got To Be Taught”. The substance of it was sung by an officer who has had his heart smitten by a young, beautiful native woman of the island. He explains thru the song that even prejudice begins right at birth. People are taught to “hate all the people, your relatives hate.” Here’s a link to the segment from the movie where it is being sung. It has always sent goose bumps down my spine because of the cold hard truth that its conveying. Yes, it is true that right from the beginning, parents give their children messages about race and who to trust and who to be with, so that by the time of adolescence, children find themselves leary of people who don’t exactly look like them.

My big takeaway from all this is that its hard to not find myself thinking my own racist thoughts. I’m not proud of knowing this about myself, but am working hard to eliminate prejudice where and when I can. This is no easy task. Reading, thinking, being a member of our local Social Justice Committee, working for Immigrant Rights. All important and difficult. The point is that we live in society that supports a white world having the upper hand over POC. Like many white folks, my eyes opened up to how rampant racism is in my world after the murder of George Floyd. Sure, I knew a lot about how the world worked before that, but this event has permanently catapulted me to a place where my goal is to become an Anti-Racist. Not being racist is not good enough. I don’t see every future twist and turn in front of me, but will embrace what’s ahead. I wonder what comes up for you about this? Did you receive suptle messages from school or parents or other relatives that had to do with race and your place in it? At my earliest moment, I”m going to ask my own grown up children what kinds of suptle messages we might have given them, as they were growing up.

I’ll leave you with a more or less accurate lyrics to the song mentioned above in hopes that you’ll see the actual performance of it: You’ve got to be taught before its 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.

1 thought on “You’ve Got To Be Taught Before Its Too Late

  1. I support your point of view. There is an ongoing monthly interactive workshop called “White Work on Racism” at the Village Zendo on line Zoom. This Sangha is physically located in NYC and now has all it’s programs on Zoom.
    You can get more info on the date of the next WWOR meeting, background, focus, etc at

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