You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.

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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 6 or 7 or 8
To hate all the people
your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught

When the musical, South Pacific, hit Broadway in 1949, Rogers and Hammerstein were determined to help their audience overcome racial prejudice. They used a story line, taken from James Michener, that included love stories between a man and a woman of different cultures and different ages and a younger interracial couple. Both sub-plots pushed the envelope and created some uncomfortable reactions in its mostly white American audiences. But they made their point in an engaging manner and with songs that were hard to forget, such as “You’ve Got to Be Taught to Hate and Fear.”

Since that time, the US officially and unofficially has made remarkable strides in racial equality. Schools were integrated, the Civil Rights Bill passed, and affirmative action spread to most schools and businesses. Churches, even in the deep South, became desegregated of their own accord. Friendships formed between races and the appearance of interracial couples became fairly common.

As a white American who was 11 when South Pacific opened, it seemed to me that most changes came fairly quickly and mostly without incident. I wish more effort had been spent persuading since moral suasion is always more effective than mere laws because it changes the heart and world view of both groups of people. On the other hand, passing laws is always quicker.

Somehow in the process of quick change, political correctness slipped in and morphed into the behemoth that it is today, overtaking good intentions and camaraderie with speech control that stifles communication. More and more concessions were demanded from the non-black population, until people who were never enslaved began demanding reparations from those who were never slave owners. In the process, too many Blacks were carefully taught to hate and fear, finding discrimination where none exists.

For example, when advising students about a summer session at ECU ten years ago, I suggested to a young black student that he might want to sign up for two classes instead of one because tuition automatically covered two classes. Within ten minutes of his departure, a large, black, tenured professor from down the hall appeared in my office demanding that I apologize to him for “acting in a discriminatory manner” because I had implied that he needed to save money because he was Black. I explained that I presented the costs to all students, whatever their race. Furthermore, of my four children, two had married white people, one married an Hispanic, and one married a Black. If I were racially prejudiced at any time during the previous 30 or 40 years, my children would have not felt free to follow their heart instead of social convention. The professor left immediately without comment, or apology, to me.

The hate and fear continues to be drummed into their dear little ears, crippling both youth and adults and turning all races living in America into cringing victims who expect to be hurt at any moment.  Hate only creates problems. It never solves them. To love one’s neighbor is not a possibility for particularly pious people to attempt. It is the only way of life that works.

 

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