You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

“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.”

You may recognize these lyrics from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific.” In the play/film the song is sung by Lt. Joe Cable, an American military officer who fell in love with a Polynesian woman and who is struggling to overcome the prejudice he learned from his upper class Philadelphia family. When it appeared on Broadway in the late 1940’s, the play was the target of much criticism for daring to address the problem of racial prejudice.

Many of us were taught prejudicial things – not always with words – when we were young, attitudes about race and religion, about people and practices, much of which was based on unfounded fears of anything that was different from the small world of our upbringing. Our teachers in this regard may have been well intentioned, but their message has been restrictive to us and harmful to society.

Differences between people are real, but when we look beneath those differences we discover the dimension of our humanity (soul) that we share with everyone. This truth is expressed by the word ‘Namaste,’ a common greeting in many Hindu cultures: “I honor the place in you where the whole universe resides. I honor the place in you of love, of light, of truth, and of peace. I honor the place in you where, if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.”  There are over seven billion people on this planet, but only one soul, one essence that enlivens us all. When we are “in that place” in us, we know the truth of our oneness with everyone.

Although we are often unaware of our prejudices (pre judgments), when we recognize them it becomes possible to open our minds and hearts to the larger truth of the universality that lies beneath our individuality, the sameness beneath our separateness, the spiritual bond at the heart of our humanity.    “Namaste”


2 thoughts on “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

  1. There was a heated dispute between the producers of SOUTH PACIFIC and Oscar Hammerstein II, who composed the song’s lyrics , about cutting the song from the original production. Hammerstein (and the rest of us) won.


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