You scream. I scream. We all scream for ice cream. And racism.
When you hear an ice cream truck play Turkey in the Straw, think about the racist lyrics written for the tune 100 years ago, writes Theodore R. Johnson III on NPR’s blog.
Johnson wants ice cream lovers to reflect on the tune’s racist history along with other minstrel songs such as Camptown Races, Jimmy Crack Corn and Oh, Susanna.
McWhorter makes The Case For Moving On in City Journal.
We should reflect often on slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining, yes. But ice cream? . . . We are not simply to live in the present; lord forbid we look ahead with anything but wary caution and, most importantly, an endless consideration that this present was furnished by people singing about nigger this and watermelon that, and doing much worse besides.
An ice cream truck goes by, playing a tune which—if anyone in 2014 is even aware of the lyric—is about the barnyard. Your average person is thinking about getting a popsicle or cone.
Demands for a “national conversation” on race will not transform the lives of black Americans, writes McWhorter. “Shouldn’t we focus on race as it exists in the only real world we will ever know—where there has never been a way to settle old scores perfectly, but in the end, what matters is getting over? Change happens, if slowly. As blacks in America move on, we can admit that sometimes, an ice cream jingle is just an ice cream jingle.”
By the way, the lyrics to “You Scream, I Scream . . . ” could be considered demeaning to Eskimos. Who knew?