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Hate is something we all must unlearn

Hate is something we all must unlearn

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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!

— Oscar Hammerstein II

In 1947, James A. Michener wrote his epic novel, Tales of the South Pacific. It was two years after the end of World War II, and it struck a chord with many Americans, particularly those who fought in the Pacific. Perhaps that war was the first time many of those Americans had been exposed to people who didn’t look like them.

Michener’s book would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize; two years later, it would be turned into a long-running Broadway musical, South Pacific. Many of its songs became popular hits, including Some Enchanted Evening, Younger Than Springtime and There Is Nothing Like a Dame. The production won 10 Tonys, including Best Musical, and received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

South Pacific dealt openly with racial prejudice — making it controversial in some parts of America, especially the South — and culminated in the telling song, You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, one of the most powerful songs ever written for the Broadway stage. Lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II noted that children aren’t born to hate, but learn it growing up surrounded by it. They carry it forward, from generation to generation.

America has been dealing with its terrible legacy of racial hate against African Americans for generations — a struggle that ebbs and wanes but is especially hard today.

Recently, though, Asian Americans have been the subject of similar vitriolic hate. Just as it is wrong against Blacks, it is wrong against people of Asian descent.

Just last week, in the Atlanta area, a young gunman shot down eight spa workers, six of them Asian American. The motive for the murders is murky, but it is likely the race of the victims played a role.

Such malice is not new, but has taken a back seat to hate crimes against Blacks. Last year, almost 3,800 incidents of hate crimes against Asian Americans were reported — most of them against women. The year before, some 2,600 case of hate crimes against Asian Americans were reported.

Why the increase? There more than likely are several reasons, but one of the main ones was the insistence of President Donald Trump to call the novel coronavirus names such as the China Virus and Kung Flu. Naturally, his supporters followed suit and, as a result, Asian Americans were vilified as being from the place where the virus started.

Chinese restaurants and groceries have been vandalized. Asian Americans have been attacked on the street, have been spat on and threatened and terrified.

This is absurd. For generations — since some 20,000 Chinese came to America to build the Transcontinental Railroad — Americans of Asian descent have contributed greatly to America’s culture and financial success.

There is no reason to fear or mistrust our Asian American friends and neighbors, just as there is no reason to fear or mistrust our Black friends and neighbors.

Some people describe America as a melting pot. Others call us a stew of different peoples creating a rich and tasty blend that enriches us all.

Congress has passed many hate crime bills, and they help. But it is up to each of us to examine our prejudices and learn how to all get along.

If we are to survive as a country, it is imperative that we do so.

We have to be carefully taught not to hate.

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