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 different 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!
This song, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught," from the Broadway musical South Pacific by Richard Rogers & Oscar Hammerstein (1949) is heralded in the play by the line that prejudice is "not born in you! It happens after you're born."
I immediately thought of this song when I watched a YouTube video of a young boy, whom I would estimate to be somewhere around the age of three, standing in front of the congregation at the Greensburg Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church in Indiana, microphone in hand, preaching to the assembled:
"The Bible's right, somebody's wrong.
The Bible's right, somebody's wrong.
Romans one, twenty six and twenty seven;
Ain't no homos gonna make it to Heaven."
The congregation jumps to its feet, loud cheers ringing out from primarily white men decked out in their Sunday best. A man is heard bellowing, "That's my boy!" The beaming youth repeats his hymn twice over, applaud and shouting reaching a heightened crescendo, high fiving soaring overhead, joyous rapture throughout the hall. Amen!
Coming back toward Earth, I believe that one of the litmus tests by which a society can be judged is the ways it treats its young people. This incident and so many others show that we as a nation have a long way to go to live up to our stated goals of ensuring freedom and justice for all. Child abuse is rampant in our society, and this is an example of child abuse in the guise of religion.
The developmental and educational psychologist, Albert Bandura (1965), proposed that young people learn primarily through observation, and that one's culture transmits social mores and what Bandura called "complex competencies" through social modeling. As he noted, the root meaning of the word "teach" is "to show."
I thought to myself as I watched this young boy on the video about the damage, the long-term damage, his elders had wrought upon him. Their own misdirected anger and hatred has already compromised the boy's intrinsic sense of humanity and integrity by teaching him to treat others as objects, as scapegoats, as detestable and sinful "others."
I know full well the long-term damage as someone who was on the other side of the hatred directed against me when I too was very young. Long before I learned what were considered the "proper" rules of gender conduct, I expressed my gender in ways that were integral to me, but ways I was quick to discover were feared and even despised by others. Adults attempted to "correct" my performance, and young people called me names with an incredible vehemence and malice that I did not comprehend.
I believe that the prime factor keeping oppression toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people locked firmly in place and enacted throughout our society Ñ on the personal/interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels Ñ are the negative doctrines and judgments emanating from primarily orthodox and fundamentalist religious communities.
When religious leaders preach their negative interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender non-conformity within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these aggressive actions.
The insanity, the bigotry, the hatred must end for the sake of our youth, and for the sake of our nation!
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Iowa State University
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