Recently, I watched my wonderful and talented step-daughter perform in her high school production of South Pacific.
I cringed as I saw art imitate life in the World War II themed musical. The female nurses were little more than decorative in bathing suites, heavy makeup, and big hair. I was insanely proud of my talented daughter, but scared for how few gains women have made from Rogers and Hammerstein to a half-naked Lady Gaga.
For those of you who haven’t seen South Pacific, one of the main plot lines is that a female nurse from Arkansas falls in love with a Frenchman who lives on the island. The plot turns when the nurse finds out he is a widower with 2 female children of mixed race. Their dark complexion was an absolute deal-breaker for the Southern belle. This plot twist ushers in a song called, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” Here are the lyrics for you…
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 diff'rent 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!
Rogers & Hammerstein received widespread criticism for having such a controversial subject as interracial marriage on the musical stage in 1949. Southern lawmakers were particularly outraged. One legislator said that "a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.” Sound familiar?
Next, I enter into evidence a recent airing of the movie Mean Girls on Nick Junior. Yes Nick JUNIOR! The production company took the time to bleep out the words “Homosexual” and “Gay”, but did NOT bleep out the words “Slut”, “Bitch”, and “Whore”. REALLY? No matter your opinions of homosexuality, this is an absolutely disgusting acceptance of female denigration. Racism, sexism, and religious righteous indignation are not new fights.
As in any lengthy battle, I feel my and younger generations becoming complacent. There seems to be a feeling of “that is an old fight that no longer exists.” Do not let hate get swept under the rug. Do not let a politician whitewash your inalienable human rights under the guise of moralism.
So how do we end the hate that seems to persist century after century?
Vote. Vote. Vote.
Help get more women and minorities into office. Encourage political efficacy in any children or young people in your life. I will continue to try to make my maternal heritage proud. A mother, who holds a math degree from Virginia Tech’s first class of female graduates with non-home economics majors, who taught me that education is power.
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