I Don't Eat Ice Cream Anyway

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 2.24.16 PMThere is a lot of scuttlebutt going on around the Internet these days concerning a well-known ditty most usually associated with the neighborhood ice cream truck. Many are calling for the song to be stricken from the rolling treat dispensaries. The viral account suggests that the song is reminiscent of late-nineteenth century minstrel shows containing (as late-nineteenth century minstrel shows usually did) offensive racial slurs.

It turns out that there are many versions of the American folk song in question that date all the way back to the early 1800s - the two most unfortunate of which (from the Jim Crow Era, no less) are called Nigger Love a Watermelon, Ha! Ha! Ha! and Zip Coon. Yes, that's right.

There are other versions that lack the racism but are alarming nonetheless. For instance, one rendition contains the  lyric: "she pissed and she farted and she shit on the floor, the gas from her ass blew the knob off the door." Isn't that lovely? And then of course, there are benign variants of the tune as well. The Turkey in the Straw version of the song, the one most certainly (hopefully) intended by modern-day ice cream truck operators, does not, as far as I can tell, seem readily offensive.

Many versions of these old American folk standards have troubling lyrics, and some have unsettling origins. Buuuuuutttttt....I wonder if we are pushing the issue here. If pressed, one could find racist versions of all kinds of tunes produced during or before the twentieth century. Does anyone remember the mockingly vicious and racist take on the  wholesome 1950s Daniel Boone television theme song? I remember kids singing this one in grade school. But that was a long time ago. So let's not forget that today there are real issues concerning race and the legacy of slavery in this country: vast economic disparities, de facto segregation, etc, etc. Perhaps it's best that we focus on these issues instead of sensationalizing a silly song.  What are your thoughts?

With compliments,


PS - my neighborhood ice cream truck plays Deutschland über Alles. Should I be concerned?