Carefully Taught

ImageWhen I was a child, I was taught to tie my shoes. I was taught to leave a party cleaner than when I arrived. I was taught to say Yes, Sir and Yes Ma’am. The kid at the wedding yesterday was taught that it is okay to point at me and say, “She’s black. That means she’s cool.”

Most people would take that as a compliment, but as I am half Black and half White, I don’t like to choose sides, nor do I like being told that one races is “better” than the other. I shouldn’t have felt bullied, but I did.


In my last post, I mentioned that children are sponges. Every snide comment and stereotypical aside that was made by a parent gets added to an internal list that could be repeated at any time. But they learned it from their parents who learned it from their parents who learned it from…. I’m going to exhaust myself.

A character in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, South Pacific had a problem with inter-racial marriage. He blames his upbringing on how he was taught. This is no different than my statement that children naturally soak up these ideas. Even if someone doesn’t think that they are teaching, it’s happening. You don’t realize that you’ve been teaching anything until you take ’em out into public and check their report card.

“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!”

-Lt.Cable, South Pacific


One response »

  1. Ashleigh, your experience reminds me of a friend that I have. He is African American and he is constantly being stereotyped and told by others what is expected of him and how he should behave based solely on the color of his skin. Just because he is African American, he is supposed to know all about hip hop, love basketball, and partake in every other stereotype that has been placed on African Americans. When he does not fall in line with many of these stereotypes, people often say to him, “Why do you act so White all the time? Act Black!”, as if he is not even is own person. It’s so insane that people are “expected” to act a certain way just because of the color of their skin and the stereotypes that society has attached to each group of people. It can be very frustrating! And it’s scary to think that children pick up on all these things and will begin to make these assumptions about different people already at such young ages. You are right, they really are like sponges and your experience demonstrates how impressionable children can be.

    Good post!

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