I recently wrote a post on living in Alabama, and the way it can be frustrating when those from elsewhere in the country adopt the moral high ground and judge us while exempting themselves from the same criteria. My point was that while, yes, there’s a number of complexities associated with the U.S. south when it comes to such topics as the history of race relations, they are hardly unique to this part of the country.
So you can imagine how interesting I found a recent post at NPR’s Code Switch, written by Theodore Johnson, with the following headline:
Without mincing words — readers, beware — his article nicely traces the beginnings of a song sometimes now associated with, yes, ice cream trucks (you may recognize the tune from an even older song, “The Turkey in the Straw”), to what many today would find to be highly offensive lyrics from “black face” traveling minstrel shows that date to a much earlier era in U.S. history.
In my reading it is not that the ice cream truck song is racist or that this one set of now offensive lyrics is the necessary or sole way to interpret the meaning of a song, but, instead, that complex and uncomfortable issues of power and identity pervade the very cultural air we all breath, ensuring that none of us are far removed from the fallout, which in turn suggests that we would be wise not to overlook the plank in our own eyes when eagerly inspecting those of others.
(Whoever said I didn’t know my bible verses?)