The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #100653   Message #2021475
Posted By: Azizi
10-Apr-07 - 12:48 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Down Down Baby-Race in Children's Rhymes
Subject: Down Down Baby-Race in Kid's Rhymes
"Down Down Baby" is a children's rhyme that is are also known by the titles "I Love Coffee. I Like Tea", and "Shimmy Shimmy CoCo Puff" {or "Coco Pow", "Coco Pops" or some other similar sounding phrase}.

Like many folk rhymes, the "Down Down Baby" family of children's rhymes are composed by stringing together a number of usually four line rhyming verses. These verses are often found as 'stand alone' rhymes, and they may also be often found in combination with other rhymes.

Standard jump rope versions of this rhyme are usually given as:
{Version 1}        
I like coffee
I like tea
I like the boys {or say a boy's name}
And the boys like me {and he likes me}


{Version 2}
I like coffee
I like tea
I want {say another jumper's name}
to come jump with me


In my admittedly unscientific & relatively limited research, I have collected contemporary examples of these rhymes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and its surrounding area. I have also collected examples of these rhymes from Erie, Pennsylvania, New York City, New York, Crawfordville, Georgia, and from Internet posters from other known & unknown geographical locations. Posters to the Internet websites, including my own website, sometimes share information that helps to determine when the rhymes are being {or have been recited} and whether the posters are children or adults. Internet posters often provide information that helps to determine how the rhymes are performed {that is, whether they are jump rope rhymes, handclap rhymes, or some other performance activity is done while reciting the rhymes}. It appears that since the 1980s "Down Down Baby" rhymes are usually recited while performing handclap rhymes and not while jumping rope.

While this change in performance activity is noteworthy, there are other changes in the contemporary {1980s to date} versions of these Down Down Baby rhymes that I find particularly disturbing. With very few exceptions, it appears that these rhymes have become confrontational in nature-formulaic verses are almost always included that mention race and that threaten physical violence from a Black {or "Colored"} person to a White person.

I find this to be particularly worthy of comment and exploration since so few contemporary children's rhymes that I have collected mention race or ethnicity.

The confrontational action in these verses follows a consistent pattern. First, these rhymes are almost always given from a female perspective {which makes sense since the person or persons reciting these rhymes are usually girls}. Secondly, in the rhyme, a Black {or "Colored"} girl rejects the advances of a White boy. Thirdly, the girl tells the White boy that she "likes a Black boy and he likes me". And fourthly {if there is such a word}, the girl threatens to get a Black {or "Colored"} boy to "beat his {the White boy's} behind".

I have also found or received an example of this rhyme in which a {presumably} Black girl tells another girl "Step back white girl you don't shine/I'll get a black girl to beat your behind". However, I have never found or received any version of this rhyme in which a White girl or White boy initiate this confrontational encounter.

I should also note that I found some versions of these rhymes where the girl says that she likes a "pretty" boy or some other non-racial adjective is used. However, these appear to be folk etymology changes to what has {had} become a racial referent.

Given the overwhelming majority of the examples that I have found or received, it seems likely to me that these Down Down Baby confrontational rhymes came from Black people.

I admit that in starting this thread, I'm interested in collecting more examples of these rhymes or other rhymes that mention race and/or are confrontational in nature. But I'm much more interested in exploring the reasons why these rhymes changed to include racially confrontational text.

In addition, I'm interested in sharing my opinions and receiving feedback about my opinions about the implications of these rhymes.
I'm also very interested in 'hearing' the opinions of others on the psycho-social implications-if any-of aggression & confrontation in children's rhymes, particularly aggression and confrontation between children of different races/ethnicities.

I'll start the 'ball rolling' by sharing several examples of these rhymes.

I hope that you will join me in exploring the possible implications of these rhymes.

Thanks in advance,


Title edited per request by Azizi on help forum -Title Faery