In 1949 I had the great adventure of flying from Chicago to NY to visit a college friend. Big deal for a teen back then. Picture me wearing a dress, high heels, little white gloves. So Midwest. Loving theater, I purchased in advance one ticket for South Pacific since my sophisticated girlfriend had gone to the opening recently. Fearlessly I traveled to the big city and to my wondrous eyes, Mary Martin captured my heart with her vitality and mischief.
Of all the marvelous songs Rogers and Hammerstein wrote, one song still echoes in my mind. Titled You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught, the lyrics are as timeless now as they were then. Read the the words and see what I mean and why it breaks my heart to know prejudice still exists.
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
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
When I wrote Sin of Omission, an interracial romance/suspense story published by Vanilla Heart, I wasn’t thinking black and white but my characters were. That’s what happens to a writer. The characters take over, if you let them, and tell their story.
excerpt: Shelley Jackson confesses her secret to Charlie, Shelley’s best friend. Jimmy, Shelley’s lover is in the room.
“I’ve made bad choices in the past but nothing to equal this. Keeping the pregnancy from you and Jimmy was completely stupid. I look back on it now and shake my head in disbelief. Since I have background in psychiatric social work, I’ve tried to analyze myself and here’s what I’ve come up with. The race card. Pat Donnelly’s family rejected me because I’m black. Dark black. In the future, these fair skinned twins could father black children. It’s a tough road.” Breathe in and out, in and out. This may be your only time.
Focusing on Jimmy she poured out what long lay bottled up. “I had no idea what you thought about racially mixed babies. Maybe the sex was fun and you’d forget about me in school so I broke it off first, tired of rejection.” Hmm. He didn’t meet her eyes. Shelley shifted her feet trying to stand still.
“Charlie, you accepted me as a friend and roommate but how would you feel if I were to marry your brother and bring color into the lily white home of your Aunt and Uncle. I’ve been there. So pristine and perfect. I envied your life and all the love they have for you.” She took another deep breath and reached for the twins in Jimmy’s arms. He relinquished them so readily it made her pause and when he again refused to meet her eyes, her mind moved on. Maybe their father didn’t want them after all. “That’s about all except to say I’m sorry. I’ve committed a sin of omission by not coming clean. If you can find it in your hearts to forgive me, we can work it out. Ball’s in your court.”
tags:blogging,books,prejudice,South Pacific,author Charmaine Gordon,Vanilla Heart,music