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February 25, 2021

A Pastoral Word. . .

Pastor Mark Adams

February 25, 2021
Last summer, Sue and I were at the Fauloner’s playing corn hole in the backyard when I heard music that filled my heart with joy! It was the ICE CREAM TRUCK! I didn’t know they were still around, but at the sound of those distinctive tingly songs, I almost jumped the fence and chased the truck down for a treat as I did back when I was a kid and could actually jump fences!

This week I learned that some of the songs played by those trucks have racist roots. To address this issue, the Good Humor Ice Cream company has decided to live up to its name and decommission the popular tune “Turkey in the Straw” from all of its ice cream trucks, and replace it with a new customized hip-hop track.

(In case it ever comes up on Jeopardy you should know that minstrel songs were often played in ice cream parlors, which is how they became jingles on ice cream trucks. Don’t forget to tithe on your winnings!)

I had no idea that the minstrel song, “Turkey in the Straw” had anything to do with racism, but it did indeed. This nineteenth century Irish fiddle tune was popularized in the US with vocal renditions containing lyrics that would cause great pain to people of color, lyrics that should in fact offend anyone who understands the evil of prejudice:
“Oh, I went out to milk and I didn’t know how,
I milked an old goat instead of a cow,
A monkey sittin’ there on a pile of straw,
A-winkin’ his eyes at his mother-in-law.”


I had no idea that this old song had a verse like that, but it provides an example of the sinful attitudes that are too often buried in our culture.

To give further evidence of HOW deep, traveling minstrel shows sang “Turkey in the Straw” with the title: “Zip Coon” as far back as 1834. In 1916, another recording of the tune by Harry C. Browne became popular. Its title? “[N-word] Love a Watermelon, Ha! Ha! Ha!”

To come up with a replacement, Good Humor tapped Robert Fitzgerald Diggs of the famed NY collective The Wu-Tang Clan. In a press release, Diggs, who goes by the stage name RZA, explained his involvement:
“I remember the days when I would hear that iconic ice cream truck jingle outside, and I would drop what I was doing to chase it down for a treat. When I learned about that song’s problematic history this summer, I knew I had to get involved.”

You can listen to the new tune here. But don’t blame me if you get an irresistible urge for a Good Humor bar!

During this Black History Month, we should be reminded, especially as Christ-followers, of the importance of learning about things like this that cause people of color pain. Learning is often the first step toward empathy, which helps motivate us to heal the wounds that racism causes.

Plus, we are a part of the body of Christ, and as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 12:  “There should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.”

Keep the SON in your eyes!
Mark
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