“You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”

One of the best songs from show/movie South Pacific is this one by Rodgers & Hammerstein:

“You’ve got to be carefully 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.”

What are we teaching our children about race? Are we dealing with racism, bigotry and prejudice in our own lives, so that we can be examples and teachers of God’s concept of one world to the children? Do we truly believe and act out our belief that to reject someone because of the color of their skin is to reject the teachings of Jesus?

Words and phrases that incorporate various colors, such as black, white, yellow and red, can carry with them ideas of “goodness” and “badness.” Are we careful and sensitive in the language we use? The images that children see on TV or video games – are they stereotyping people? Does the news only show violence caused by persons of color? Is anyone talking about the causes of crime and violence as being poverty and not race?

Our actions will tell children what we truly believe about the issue of racism. The simple gesture of welcoming persons of another race to your neighborhood conveys to a child that you respect the persons and are glad to have them as neighbors. Your willingness to stand against injustice in your community around the issues of housing, immigration, education or police activity, will give a message of fairness and hope to the children watching.

It is the children of all races that are being damaged and hurt by the racism, prejudice and bigotry they see and experience. Our racism should not be passed onto the children. Instead we should be giving children a sense of respect for all persons and cultures; the ability to work together despite differences; and the firm belief that we all are brothers and sisters created in the image of God.

Remember: “Racists are not born, but made!” Let us save this generation of children from this deadly disease!

Joyce SohlJoyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats and art exhibits.