Besides the premiere of Hamilton on Disney+ in a couple of weeks, Tony Award™ winner Leslie Odom Jr. has made the news recently for something he said, not something he did. While recording a bedtime story for his daughter he flubbed a line and dropped the f-bomb. And, of course, his toddler daughter heard it and repeated it. He and his wife got a good laugh over it, and then proceeded to have a long talk with their daughter.
This leads to the eloquent lines of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics from Into The Woods:
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
In my own family, the only time I heard my mother (who was a great believer in respecting your elders) speak up to her mother-in-law was when Granny used the n-word in front of me when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I can still hear mom raising her voice to say: “Rachel, we do not use that word in front of the boy!” My mother heard something, said something, and I listened.
This is how a movement from more than 150 years ago, that even though it lasted only 4 or 5 years, can still be a needless part of our society today. You may think everyone who believed that way should be dead and gone, but their children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren listened and obey.
As the 1947 Oscar Award ™ winning movie, Gentleman’s Agreement portrayed it’s not enough to be “not” something, you’ve got to be “Anti-something.” This is why we’re dealing with these issues 73 years later. Don’t let the snide joke go unchecked, don’t let the off-handed comment go unchallenged.
After 9/11 there were posters everywhere reminding people to “SEE SOMETHING/SAY SOMETHING” as a way to curb terrorism. The same applies to racism and maybe your children will listen to that.