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The song is a show tune from the 1949 musical South Pacific. At the time, South Pacific received scrutiny for its commentary regarding relationships between different races and ethnic groups. In particular, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” was subject to criticism, judged by some to be too controversial or downright inappropriate for the musical stage. Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song is preceded by a line saying racism is “not born in you! It happens after you’re born…”

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

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

You’ve got to be carefully taught

 

Written by Richard Rodgers / Oscar Hammerstein II

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