“The Difference Between Love and Hate is Understanding”

YesICanBeen listening to a lot of The Rat Pack lately, really enjoying Frank, Dean, and Sammy. Especially Sammy. Reading bios about these legendary performers, too.

And learning a lot.

For example, reading Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr. this morning I discovered the following…

Setup: Sammy is being interviewed by show host Barry Gray, who is asking him about his conversion to Judaism, prejudice, and racial jokes. The interview took place in the late 1950s, shortly after Sammy’s appearance on Broadway in “Mr Wonderful.”

Sammy says to Barry:

“I was reading a book about Judaism and I came across a statement: ‘The difference between love and hate is understanding.’ That understanding is obstructed by the images which are imbedded in people’s minds.”

A few pages later, Sammy says:

“As awful as violence is, at least it’s out in the open where it can be recognized and handled and eventually it’s ended. But the jokes keep on, quietly, subversively, like a cancer, rotting away the foundations of hope for the Negro, stealing the dignity on which we can build respected lives.

“And as bad as the jokes, are the words— the put-down words like ‘nigger,’ ‘kike,’ ‘chink,’ ‘wop,’ ‘spick.’ I hear them used between buddies, good-naturedly, but anyone who thinks he’s above prejudice, so he can use them affectionately or humorously is missing the point: If a person sincerely desires to stamp out a sickness he can’t keep a few of its germs alive just for laughs. Before we can reach a Utopia in human relations those jokes and those words and the legends which they perpetuate must die. “You can pass legislation for desegregation, but you can’t legislate people’s minds and that’s where the progress must finally be made, in people’s minds and in their hearts.”