There are many memorable songs from the 1949 musical, South Pacific. The musical was so successful that it was turned into a movie in 1958. It is still popular with some audiences. The musical was entertaining and broke ground in the way we look at each other and with whom we might fall in love. There are two interracial love stories in the musical that involve white men in relationship with Polynesian women. Some viewing the musical and movie were disapproving of this coupling. It wasn’t until 1967 that interracial marriages were allowed in every State in the Union. Movies such as the 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” also pointed up the uncomfortable feeling of those who approve only of same race unions. In that story, instead of viewing persons as simply male and female, they became a black man and a white woman.

A song from South Pacific points out that many of our prejudices are taught when children are young. Children in Ireland, for example, were taught either to hate Protestants or Catholics depending on the parents’ persuasion. As a result, each new generation continued the rivalries of their parents and grandparents. As a song from South Pacific says,
You’ve got be taught
To hate and fear
You’ve got be taught
From year to year
It’s got 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
The Bible takes note of this transference of sin and its consequences from generation to generation (e.g. Exodus 20:4-7) Things we teach our children make a difference in their outlook on others. Do we teach them to be afraid of people with different eyes or skin from that of their own? Do we teach our children to hate and fear people whose understanding of God comes from a tradition other than our own? Do we presume to take God’s place and judge who is going to heaven and who is going to hell? Does everyone have to be like us to be right?
We have to be carefully taught. Are we hearing the story of a loving God who is incarnate in all of creation to draw us closer to divine Love?
This column was originally published June 19, 2014.