My parents didn’t teach me to hate
I look back over the years and realize what an amazing statement this is: my parents didn’t teach me to hate. Never once did I hear a word against any group or people, religion or race. I didn’t grow up with the burden of prejudice. I didn’t have to unlearn the lessons of racism.
You may not think this statement makes my folk sound special. I hope your parents did the same.
What makes this fact remarkable is that my father was born in 1904 and my mother, in 1907, hardly years of openness and acceptance of others. I was born in the 1940’s and grew up in a world filled with bigotry and hatred, in a world of separate restrooms and in a city where the public swimming pool was closed because white people didn’t want to swim with black people. Because of the way my parents raised me, I didn’t understand why anyone would object to this. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
I thought of this again about a week ago when I watched a PBS program about Oscar Hammerstein. He was a man born in 1895, a man ahead of his time, a writer who asked questions and forced discussion on many issues, especially of race and prejudice, in the lyrics of his marvelous musicals.
In 1949, Hammerstein wrote South Pacific. I was born in Kansas City, MO, a little off Broadway, but wonderful touring companies came through. I saw South Pacific in the theater when I was eight. After the show was over, I asked my mother about the song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught. She told me that some parents teach their children to hate other people, people who are different. I asked her why. She couldn’t explain. Neither can I.
In Showboat written in 1927, Hammerstein dealt with misogyny. Julie, who had “black blood”, was married to a white man, a union which was against the law. I saw this movie when I was nine and couldn’t understand why two adults who love each other couldn’t marry. I still don’t.
My parents raised me in church and taught me that the Gospel means acceptance and love for all, no exceptions.
Thanks, Mom and Dad.