If children learn all these subtle sexist and racist prejudices from adults who are trying to disguise and deny them, why don’t children pick up all those things we do want them to imitate, like sitting still and being polite?
Humorous, yes, but with a serious point. The civilizations of the west are routinely accused of perpetrating these terrible prejudices and dangerous values on the rest of humanity. But the sappy righteousness of “South Pacific” has it exactly backward. The terrible prejudices and dangerous values are the lot of all humankind, everywhere. We don’t have to be carefully taught prejudice. It comes absolutely naturally and unbidden – it is tolerance that has to be carefully taught. Occasionally we rise above the misery because of western – usually Christian – values. Even that, not so often as we’d like.