Monday, September 29, 2008

"Go kill the Yellow Man"

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

My kids notice lyrics. You may recall me being asked loudly on the side walk in our hometown "Mom, what's Negro Day?" after we had just listened to the soundtrack for the movie Hairspray.

They also sing lyrics really loudly.

As when this summer we had one of little lady's friends over for dinner. We brought this 4-year-old home for supper and were taking her to the weekly outdoor concert. Her mom was traveling out of state for work and we were just thrilled to have her join us.

Little lady's friend was adopted by her mom in China.

After we finished eating, one big brother decided to put on his favorite song at the time, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. He knew it is about the mistreatment of veterans following a "long ago war" (to a then almost 8 year old) but clearly had no idea about the location of that war or what some of the lyrics were about.

He was singing loudly around the dining room table and our young friend continued to have the look of either horror or exhaustion from watching identical boys run constantly since she had walked into the door of our house. As he was matching Bruce's notes perfectly, I fell into a panic because he was getting close to a particular lyric:

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

I didn't know whether to tell him to outright stop singing which would lead to a series of "why Mom?" in front of our young, Asian-American guest, or just stare at him and hope telepathy would work.

I stared and in my brain begged him to stop singing and not ask why. He did stop singing and for the first time quietly went into the other room to do something else.

Later that night, after our young friend was dropped off at her house, I thanked him profusely for stopping his singing. I tried as best as I could to explain the context of the lyric and how Springsteen was trying to show how war dehumanizes people.

I was able to tell the little friend's mom about this a couple of days later. She blessedly wasn't fazed by it all and said she was glad there was a teaching moment out of it.

Several weeks later we were making 25+ copies of the birthday CD as favors for the boys upcoming party. At one point the little Springsteen fan yelped that we had to make one without "Born in the USA" for a classmate of his.

His classmate was also adopted in China. He didn't want her to feel bad when she got the CD.

Got a song that you like but something about it makes you jump when you hear it? Do tell.


Flower Child said...

Pieces of You by Jewel. Good message but not exactly a refrain you can sing out loud.

Kate said...

BRUUUUUUUCE! As a Jersey girl, I have a special place in my heart for Bruce. Love his music.

Would the little girl even know what "yellow man" means ya think? I mean, it's such an old phrase. Just wondering. But good lesson to be learned by the boys.

Jami said...

My kids don't sort folks by skin color simply because they have friends in a wide variety of hues. But I've always found it humorous that they are pretty literal with regard to skin color. They don't think people are white or black or red or yellow because they KNOW what those colors are - and people don't come in those colors. People come in all shades of pink or brown or tan or beige or honey, but not, you know, COLORS like red or yellow ... or green.

Heather said...

That's very sweet that he was thinking about his classmate.