One of America’s (and Kanye’s) favorite pastimes is eating ice cream. There’s nothing like hearing the ice cream truck coming down your street as a kid. However, the jingle we all loved as children has a surprisingly racist past.
NPR exposed the song’s history, claiming it was popularized by Harry C. Browne in the 1916 song “Nigger Love A Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!” Browne took the melody from the early 19th century song, “Turkey In The Straw,” which was brought to America by Irish and Scottish immigrants.
Although “Turkey In The Straw” is the original of the two, “Nigger Love A Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!” is what made the melody popular in America. NPR’s Theodore R. Johnson writes, “There is simply no divorcing the song from the dozens of decades it was almost exclusively used for coming up with new ways to ridicule, and profit from, black people.”
It’s starting to get warmer day by day, and you can expect to hear the ice cream jingle on your block. Don’t forbid yourself from a tasty Choco Taco because of the tune, but know that racism is so embedded in American culture that sometimes it’s in the last place you would expect— like your ice cream cone.