The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #100653   Message #2021633
Posted By: Azizi
10-Apr-07 - 04:20 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Down Down Baby-Race in Children's Rhymes
Subject: RE: Down Down Baby-Race in Children's Rhymes
I'd like to expand the scope of this thread to include other children's rhymes that mention or allude to race.

As I mentioned earlier, very few of the children's rhymes that I have collected since 1997 mention race. Here's one that does:


Zing Zing Zing
at the bottom of the sea.
I am a little __ second grade *
as pretty as can __ be be. {"___" indicates one beat before recitation begins again}.
And all the boys around my house
go crazy over __ me me.

My boyfriend's name is __ Yellow.
He comes from Ala__bama
with 25 toes
and a pickle on his nose
and this is how the story goes.
One day I was ah __ walkin
I saw my boyfriend __ talking
to a very pretty girl
with cherry pie curls **
And this is what she said
"I L-O-V-E __ love you."
"I K-I-S-S __ kiss you."
"I A-D-O-R-E __ adore you"
1-2-3-4 ***
Get your black hands off of me!
- Diarra, K'azsa, and Michelle, Fort Pitt Elementary School, Pittsburgh, Pa, 2004; collected by Azizi Powell, 2004


I collected this handclap rhyme from girls in the second grade at the beginning of the school year 2004. This rhyme was performed as a three person handclap. I have also seen it performed [without the last line] as a two partner handclap and as a group {more than 4 person hand clap].

The performance directions for these rhymes may vary much more than the words. When I collected the 2004 example, the three girls stood in a triangle-like formation and took turns clapping each other's hands and their own hands. When they chanted this last line, the girls did a chest high, flicking motion with their right hand as if to say "get out of here".

* In this particular occassion {at an after-school session within the school}, the girls began to sing "first grade", but changed it to "second grade". After they had finished, I asked them which grade they usually use and was told that grade mentioned depending on the grade of the girls reciting this song.

** At this same school, I have also heard this line given as "strawberry curls". However, because almost 100% of the students in the school are Black, and-to my knowledge-no White teacher in that school has red hair, the students may not have known that strawberry curls means "red hair". Perhaps, the phrase "cherry pie curls" was almost as meaningless, but at least these children had probably heard of-even if they may not have tasted-cherry pies.

***This couplet may have originally been "1-2-3" since "three" rhymes with "me".

The "Get your black hands off of me!" line suggests that "black" skin color may still be viewed as a negative.

As an anecdotal aside that supports this disturbing theory, my daughter who teaches 2nd grade at that school {a school that is 99.9% African American} shared with me that another teacher told her that a new student from Africa is being teased by the other students because her skin is very dark.