Friday, October 16, 2020

The "Get Your Black Hands Off Of Me" Line In African American Children's Recreational Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post documents a few examples of African American children's rhymes that include the line "get your black hands off of me".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Special thanks to Naijah S. for sharing several children's rhyme examples with me, including two examples that I included in this post.
This is a reformatted form of the 2011 pancocojams post entitled "The Get Your Black Hands Off Of Me Line In African American Playground Rhymes"   

Click for a closely related post entitled "Examples Of The Lines "Step Back Jack, Your Hands Are Too Black" In African American Playground Rhymes"

In the early 2000s I coined the term "racialized rhyme" to refer to examples of playground rhymes that include racial references although those rhymes previously didn't mention race.  The main way of racializing rhymes is to include racial referents such as "black ,"white", and "colored". However, the examples in this post document that references to skin color have also been used to racialize rhymes.

When I was growing up in New Jersey in the 1950s, the very worse thing you could call another Black person was "blackie". Being called "blackie" usually resulted in a fist fight. Sometimes the child hurling that taunt had the same skin complexion or a similar skin complexion as the child being taunted. In those days few Black people I knew wanted to be Black or wanted to be reminded that they were Black. Unfortunately, as I witnessed during the two years I substitute taught in an all Black Pittsburgh Pennsylvania school, the "Black is Beautiful movement" of the 1970s and 1980s in the United States doesn't appear to have changed this attitude all that much. Black kids still taunt other Black kids by calling them "blackie". And immigrant children from Somalia, East Africa - who were darker than most of the African American children, and who also wore outfits that were different than the norm - were the particular target of "blackie" racial slurs.

Taunts aren't the only place that putdowns of Black people by Black people show up. Those in-racial putdowns also show up in children's playground rhymes where they are recited along with other words, with very little thought to their meaning.

In addition to telling adapted West African stories, I enjoy collecting children's playground rhymes. So when an opportunity presents itself to do both, I'm really in my glory. Such an opportunity occurred one evening in January, 2011 when I was slated to present African folktales for young children whose women who were members of the historically Black Greek lettered sorority Zeta Phi Beta, Inc.. A nine year old girl arrived early to that event with her mother. While her mother helped set up the room, that little girl, who I later learned was named Naijah, spent some time on her small notebook computer. I couldn't resist the opportunity, so I approached her, introduced myself, and asked her if she knew any hand clap rhymes. When she said "yes", I asked her if she would share some of those rhymes with me.

It just so happened that two of the playground rhymes that Naijah shared with me included the line "Get your black hands off of me". Those two examples and two other examples of "get your black hands off of me" rhymes are given below. 

These are the only examples of this line in children's rhymes that I've found as of this date.

If you know an example of rhymes with this line, please share it for the folkloric record and don't forget to include demographic information (city/state where you learned it, year or decade that you learned it, and your race and gender). Thanks!

The first three examples in this post were performed as two or three person hand clap rhymes. I don't know how the fourth example in this post was performed. 

The "get your black hands off of me" line is written in italics to highlight that line." In those examples, I believe that the word "black" isn't a racial referent, but refers to the color.

For the record, I always capitalize the "B" in the word "Black" when I use it as a racial referent and, in doing so, I also always capitalize the word "White" when it is used as a racial referent.

These rhymes are numbered for referencing purposes only. 



1.  E
ET from outer space.
He had an ugly face.
Sitting in a rocket.
Eating chocolate.
Watching soap operas
All day long.
Get your black hands off of me.
Now freeze!
-Naijah S.; (African American female, 9 years old; Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania); January 14, 2011; Collected by Azizi Powell 1/14/2011

This rhyme is part of the "Miss Sue From Alabama" family of rhymes.
Naijah recited this rhyme without my asking for it by name. She said that that "ABCDEFG" part is also used in the "I Am A First Grader" rhyme that she recited for me after several other rhymes.

I mentioned to Naijah that I had heard that "get your Black hands off of me" line in other rhymes and I wondered if if meant that people were ashamed of being Black. Naijah looked shocked and said "I enjoy my heritage".

I am a pretty __ first grader*
As pretty as can___ be be.
My boyfriend's name is__ Chris Brown**
He lives in Ala__bama.
One day when I was___walking
I saw my boyfriend __ talking
To the ugliest girl in the whole wide world.
And this is what he said.
I M-I-S-S miss you.
I L-O-V-E love you.
Get your black hands off of me.
I K-I-S-S Kiss you!
-Naijah S.; (African American female, 9 years old; Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; January 14, 2011; Collected by Azizi Powell 1/14/2011

The dash indicate one beat before the next word or the next syllable.

"I Am A Prettty First Grader" is a version of the playground rhyme "I Am A Pretty Little Dutch Girl". Naijah recited this rhyme without my asking for it by name.

*Naijah said "Girls say the grade they are in when they say this rhyme (like first grade or second grade or fifth grade)". Naijah also said that when she was in the second grade she forgot and said "I am a pretty first grader". And that's the words she used for this recitation of that rhyme.

**"Chris Brown" is a currently popular young African American R&B singer and actor. I think that besides his popularity, his last name "Brown" is the reason why he joins a long line in children's playground rhymes of other people or of characters whose last name is "Brown"-for instance "Buster Brown", "Charlie Brown", "James Brown", and probably others.

***Naijah said "The reason why the woman said "Get your black hands off of me" in that rhyme is that she was mad at him because he was cheating on her. I found that explanation interesting as it showed that an attempt was made to explain that line within the context of that rhyme. However, it still seems to me that the emphasis on the color of the hands meant that their dark color was considered negatively. 


Notwithstanding Naijah's comment about enjoying her heritage (which she gave after my question about the "ET" rhyme and her explanation about the meaning of that line after the "I Am a First Grader" rhyme, I believe that the "Get your Black hands off of me" line in both of these rhymes shows that dark skin color is still considered a negative.

Zing Zing Zing
at the bottom of the sea.
I am a little __ second grade
as pretty as can __ be be.
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"
Get your black hands off of me!
 Diarra, K'azsa, and Michelle, Fort Pitt Elementary School, Pittsburgh, Pa, (Garfield neighborhood),  2004; collected by Azizi Powell, 2004

The "___" indicates that chanters are to stop for one beat before continuing to recite the rhyme.

"Cherry pie curls" probably means "red hair that is curly" [Note that the girls may have come up with this description because it's unlikely that they would have seen anyone with red hair (except any teachers) in their 99% Black elementary school.]

 "1234" is usually given as "123" (which rhymes with the word "me").

For the record, the Garfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh is some distance from the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh where the contributor for examples #1 and #2 lived.  

4. this is a ecxample sea sea at the bottom of the sea Im a little firts grader as pretty as can be be and all the boys aronud my block are fighting over me me my boy friends name is jello he from alabama with 25 toes and a pretty fat noes and this how my story goes one day I was walking I saw my boy friend talking to the pretiest girl in the whole wide world and this what I sayed to her see my pickie see my thumb see my fist you better run wait come back you need a tik tak not one not two but the the whole six pack sorry to mean but you some vasuline 123 get your black hands off me

-Unknown, October 16, 2020 (comment to )

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