Sorry to ruin your summer, but the 'ice cream truck' song is racist AF

WARNING/EDITOR'S NOTE: This article contains subject matter and some language (thought censored) that may be triggering for readers. However, in our attempt to highlight passive examples of systemic racism we felt it was a story worth sharing.

There are certain sounds that are synonymous with summer, the crack of a baseball bat, the sounds of someone cannon-balling into a pool and the tinny sound of the ice cream truck rolling down the street, accompanied by the scampering sound of children's feet.



The song played by the ice cream truck in most people's neighborhoods sounds something like this:

The Ice Cream Truck Song www.youtube.com

The tune is "timeless," but most people don't know that the words to the most popular version of the song are incredibly racist.

The original version of the melody comes from the traditional British song "The (Old) Rose Tree" which made its way to the American colonies by Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 1700s where it was popularized as the song, "Turkey in the Straw."

In the late 1820s, the melody took a turn for the disturbingly racist when multiple songs were written about "Zip Coon," a popular minstrel character. Although it's unclear who originally wrote the lyrics, there were versions published by Thomas Birch in 1834 and George Washington Dixon in 1835.

O ole Zip Coon he is a larned skoler,

Sings posum up a gum tree an conny in a holler.

Posum up a gum tree, coonny on a stump,

Den over dubble trubble, Zip coon will jump

The chorus of "O Zip a duden duden duden zip a duden day" would later become the inspiration for Disney's "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah."

Zip Coon was a stock minstrel show character who was a way to mock free Black men. He was an arrogant, ostentatious man who wore flashy clothes and attempted to speak like affluent white members of society, usually to his own disparagement.

He was often paired with Jim Crow, a dimwitted rural character. The actors who played both roles were white and wore blackface.

via Wikimedia Commons


OLD ZIP COON - 1834 - Performed by Tom Roush www.youtube.com

In the early 1900s, coon cards which were essentially playing cards with racist depictions of Black people eating watermelons while making wide-eyed looks, were popular and inspired another racist version of the popular melody: "Ni**er Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!"

The song opens with someone telling a group of Black people to stop playing dominoes and to come get some ice cream. The racist twist is that it's "the colored man's ice cream: Watermelon!"

The hook has to be one of the most racist things every written:

Ni**er love a watermelon ha ha, ha ha!

Ni**er love a watermelon ha ha, ha ha!

For here, they're made with a half a pound of co'l

There's nothing like a watermelon for a hungry coon

The Truth About The Ice Cream Truck Jingle | Ni**er Love A Watermelon youtu.be

The song would become popular in ice cream parlors of the early 1900s that often played minstrel songs. After World War II, when many people moved out the cities and into the suburbs, ice cream parlors sent trucks out to these new neighborhoods to expand their business to the 'burbs.

To keep the old-timey feel of the parlor and to alert the children to the truck's presence, they would commonly play the melody associated with the two extremely racist songs.

Hundreds of years after the melody first was written somewhere in England, American children now associate the song with one of the purest joys life has to offer, the cool taste of ice cream on a hot summer's day.

But after learning the melody's historic association with pain and oppression, can we ever hear the song the same way? Should we be happy that a timeless melody has been redeemed after decades of being associated with something positive? Or should it be banished it from being broadcast on our streets and replaced by something that better describes the joys of summer?

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

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Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.