[DIVERSITY] South Pacific's "You Have to Be Carefully Taught"
- Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific
In Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, the main theme is racial
prejudices. The two main characters, Emile de Becque and Nellie
Forbush are faced with these problems as they attempt a
Two other minor characters, Lt. Joe Cable and Liat, are faced with
the same dilemma. Both Nellie and Joe Cable have a hard time copping
with their own racial prejudices;
Joe loves Liat, yet cannot marry her because she is Tonkinese;
Nellie loves Emile, but cannot marry him because of his former
Polynesian wife. It is these prejudices that set the state for what
might be the most significant scene in the production.
In act 2, scene 3, Nellie reveals her prejudices to Emile.
I can't help it. It isn't as if I could give you a good reason.
There is no reason. This is emotional. It's something that is born
She looks to Cable for help in describing what she feels, but he
offers no help.
Emile tells her that it is not born in her, that it cannot be born
Nellie, who is crying, runs off. Emile is left with Joe, who is
thinking over his own relationship with Liat. Emile asks him why he
and Nellie think that these prejudices are born in them. Joe, giving
him the product of his thoughts, tell him "It's not born in you."
It is at this point that Joe Cable begins singing "Carefully
Taught," a character song in which Joe is able to vent his
frustrations and anger about his own prejudices.
The music is slightly upbeat, which helps to illustrate that by
singing this song, he is beginning to feel better. The words that
Joe sing tell the audience that he realizes that prejudices aren't
born within someone, but taught to them.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people who's eyes are oddly made,
And people who's skin is a different shade
You've got to be carefully taught!
To HATE all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught! (II,iii)
Joe realizes that there would be no prejudices in the world if it
nobody were to teach it to the children. He sees that if nobody had
even spoken against other races or people that were different, he
would have no problem with marrying Liat.
He realizes that he actually does not feel these things at all
and the ideas that have been planted in his head can be as easily
uprooted as they were planted. Joe, feeling better, sits down and
listens to Emile begin to speak.
Emile tells Joe that it was prejudice that he had been running away
You have 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 have to be carefully taught.
-Oscar Hammerstein, 1949 South Pacific
performed by Rogers and Hammerstein
from the album South Pacific Soundtrack (Purchase from Amazon.com)
about unlearning oppressive attitudes we've been 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've got to be carefully taught."
The Roots of Racism
by Mark Ross
You have to be taught to hate and fear
You have to be taught from year to year
It has to be drummed in your dear little ear
You have to be carefully taught!
-Rogers and Hammerstein
performed by No Doubt
from the album Tragic Kingdom (Purchase from Amazon.com)
about the positivity of diversity:
"He and she two different people
With two seperate lives
Then you put the two together
And get a spectacular surprise
'Cause one can teach the other one
What she doesn't know
While still the other fills a place inside
He never knew had room to grow"