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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Contemporary United States Examples Of & Comments About "I Like Coffee" Children's Rhymes That Include Racial References

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision: March 9, 2021

This pancocojams post presents contemporary (1970s to the date of this publication) United States examples of and comments about versions of "I like coffee" recreational children's rhymes that include racial references. "Racialized rhymes" is my term for playground rhymes that previously didn't mention race but now include racial references.

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series on race/ethnicity in contemporary [post 1960s] English language children's playground rhymes.

Some of the content of this post was published in this 2012 pancocojams post: Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2012/01/racialized-versions-of-i-like-coffee-i.html. However, this 2018 post includes different racialized examples of "I Like Coffee" than those which are included in the 2012 post.

Note that some of these rhymes may also be called "Down Down Baby". However, the racial referents in these examples are always found in the "I love coffee" portion of those rhymes.

This content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

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DISCLAIMER: This post doesn't purport to be a compilation of every example of this rhyme that I've found online. Some examples that I found online aren't included that are the same as other examples.

Also, this post doesn't imply that these rhymes are (or were) only recited by African Americans.

-snip-
Click https://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2021/03/racialized-versions-of-i-like-coffee-i.html for a 2021 post entitled "Racialized Versions Of "I Like Coffee I Like Tea" Rhymes That Include The Words "I Like A White Boy & He Likes Me / So Step Back Black Boy..."

Here's a comment that I wrote in that post that corrects some inaccurate statements about these rhymes that I had written earlier:

"The earliest dates that I have found for racialized examples of "I Like Coffee I Like Tea" is the 1970s (United States). (Note that when I first wrote about these rhymes (on my now deleted cocojams.com cultural website (prior to 2007) and on a 2007 Mudcat folk music discussion thread whose link is given later in this comment, I mistakenly believed that these racialized "I Like Coffee I Like Tea" rhymes were first chanted in the 1980s. I also mistakenly believed that there were no examples of these racialized "I Like Coffee I Like Tea" hymes that included the lines "I like a White Boy and he likes me...so step back Black boy" etc. I had this mistaken belief because I hadn't come across any examples of those rhymes with those words-until I started that aforementioned Mudcat thread. 

It's still true that almost all of the examples of these "I Like Coffee I Like Tea" rhymes that I have come across have the "I like a Black boy (or a "Colored boy") and he likes me wording. (And most of the rhymes that I've come across have the updated referent "Colored" instead of the word "Black". And none of them have the referent "African American" since that referent would really mess up the rhythm and flow of that rhyme.".

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OVERVIEW OF I LIKE COFFEE I LIKE TEA RHYMES
"I Like [Love] Coffee I Like Tea" is a large family of playground rhymes which has been documented as early as 1869. Examples of these rhymes include

"Molly, my sister and I fell out,
And what do you think it was all about?
She loved coffee and I loved tea,
And that was the reason we couldn’t agree."

**
"I like coffee I like tea
I like the boys and they like me"

**
"I like coffee I like tea
I want [child's name]
To come in [or "jump in"] with me.

None of these examples include any references to race or any confrontational content.

However, a version of "I Like Coffee" from Great Britain contains this racial referent:
"I like coffee I like tea
I like sitting on a black man's knee".

It's important to note that this "I Like Coffee" rhyme carried/carries the implication that there is something risque and/or wrong about sitting on a Black man's knee only when it is recited by non-Black children. That implication wouldn't have been present/isn't present when this rhyme was/is recited by Black children.

According to the definition given above, the "sitting on a black man's knee" example of "I Like Coffee" is what I call a "racialized rhyme".

This pancocojams post focuses on post 1960s* racialized examples of "I Like Coffee" rhymes that originated in the United States. I don't know if any examples of these racialized rhymes are found outside of the United States.

For the record, I should note that the only racialized examples of "I Like Coffee" that I've found to date [2018] include the racial referents "black", "white", or colored (including the folk processed spelling "color"). I've never come across any versions of these rhymes that referred to Asian, Latino/a, or any other race/ethnicity (with ethnicity here having the USA definition of Latino/Hispancic).

*An anonymous commenter shared this recollection with me on March 12, 2013 via email:
"A Down down baby / colored boy version was sang on the school yard at my elementary school in 1977 during double dutch at recess. [Seattle, Washington]" end of quote.

1977 is the earliest date I've come across thus far for these racialized versions of "I Love Coffee"/"Down Down Baby" rhymes.

Like most contemporary children's rhymes, racialized examples "I Like Coffee I Like Tea' is composed by stringing together couplets (pairs of lines with the same length and ending in a word that rhymes or nearly rhymes. Most of these couplets are from stand alone rhymes (i.e. rhymes that can be recited by themselves, but are usually combined with other recreational rhymes.)

Racialized and non-racialized versions of "I Like Coffee" are combined with "Down Down Baby" rhymes. ("Down Down Baby" is also known as "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pop" or similarly sounding titles.) "I Like Coffee" verses are also combined with several other rhymes, particularly versions of "Last Night, The Night Before" (and particularly the version of that rhyme that is most often called "I Met My Boyfriend At The Candy Store". Racialized and non-racialized versions of "I Like [Love] Coffee" are also often combined with verses of "Apple On A Stick", "Take A Peach, Take A Plum", and "Eeny Meenie Epsideenie". The "I Like Coffee" lines may appear anywhere in those rhymes.

Most racialized examples of "I Love Coffee" that I've collected were/are chanted by two girls while doing hand clap routines. However, like other hand clap rhymes in the United States, these rhymes may have initially been chanted by girls while jumping rope and may still be chanted by girls while jumping rope.

The "I Like Coffee" portion of these rhymes include references to race and confrontational content. Here's an example of that rhyme (without the other verses that are usually recited with it.]

I like coffee I like tea
I like a [racial term] boy and he likes me.
So step back [different racial term] you don't shine
I'm gonna get a [same racial term as initially given] boy
to beat your behind"

Lines from other rhymes follow that couplet. [Read the examples below.]

I've found the same or similar versions of this sub-set of "I Like Coffee" ("Down Down Baby") on multiple websites that provide examples of contemporary children's rhymes. I've also heard this version of "I Love Coffee" recited in my adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and have directly or indirectly (via telephone of email and from the internet) collected the same or similar versions from persons in New York City, Georgia, Michigan, Connecticut, and Maryland. This leads me to believe that this version is probably found throughout the United States.

In almost all cases that I have found, the rhyme is voiced from the standpoint of females, i.e. "step back black boy/ you don't shine/ I'mma get a white boy/ to beat your behind". However, I've read at least one example that is composed from the standpoint of boys ("step back white girl you don't shine / I'mma get a black girl to beat your behind"). And at least one example of this rhyme is composed from the standpoint of girls fighting other girls for whatever reason or reasons.

I've also read an example of "I Love Coffee" which uses the phrasing "step back white/black boy/ I'm gonna get a white/black boy to beat your behind". In response to my query, the contributor who posted that example clarified that in the integrated setting he grew up in, children reciting this could choose to say "white" or black" and usually did so to "match" their race. [This example is found the 2012 post whose link is given above.]

These racialized lines express the societal expectation that a person should only be romantically interested in someone from their own race. The girl who is approached by a boy from another racial/ethnic group not only tells that boy that she already has a boyfriend from her racial group, she also tells the boy who approached her romantically that "You don't shine" (In standard English, this probably means "You're not a star", "You're not special"). The girl also threatens the boy from another racial group who approached her, saying that she's going to get a boy from her race/ethnic group to fight him ("beat your behind"). Presumably, she says that she will do this if that boy "bothers her" again (approaches her again with romantic intent.)

I believe that these racialized references and confrontational lines in "I Like Coffee" rhymes reflect the racial tensions between school children that often occurs with increased school integration.

Unfortunately, in the past and to perhaps a somewhat lesser extent now, children have been socialized to believe that race/ethnicity (and gender) limits who they will be involved with romantically. And unfortunately, confrontational attitudes toward other races/ethnicities are all too frequently still the norm in the USA and elsewhere.

Children's playground rhymes often reflect the mores of the society in which children live, move, and have their being. Therefore, girls (or boys) who recite rhymes with racial content are usually echoing what they have absorbed from society in myriad (often unconscious) ways. Just as I don't think that every mention of race or ethnicity is racist, I don't think that every mention of race in children's playground rhymes is racist.

A commenter who shared an example of this rhyme she remembered from her childhood on a mudcat discussion thread that I started in 2010 wrote "I am VERY saddened that we said this in elementary school."
-GUEST,guest, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=100653 Down Down Baby-Race in Children's Rhymes, 12 Dec 10

Here’s my response to this comment:
Guest, guest, with regard to your ending comment, I believe that children's playground rhymes often reflect the mores of the society in which children live, move, and have their being. Therefore, girls who recite rhymes with racial content are probably just echoing what they have absorbed from society in myriad (often unconscious) ways.

Unfortunately, it was (and to a large extent still is) the norm for children to believe that race/ethnicity (and gender) limits who they will be involved with romantically. And unfortunately, confrontational attitudes toward other races/ethnicities are all too frequently still the norm in the USA and elsewhere. In my opinion, the fact that you, and I (and I'm certain others) recognize this, regret it, and challenge this as a norm, is a hopeful sign.

****
EXAMPLES OF RACIALIZED VERSIONS OF "I LIKE COFFEE"

Note: I usually capitalize the racial referents "Black" and "White". However, in this post, unless I'm writing my own comments, I adhere to the format used by the contributors of these rhyme examples, and spell those and other racial referents such as "Colored" with a lower case beginning letter.

These examples are given in no particular order with no titles. They are numbered for referencing purposes only.
1.
"I like coffee
I like tea
I like the colored boy and he likes me
So step back white boy you don't shine
Cuz I'll get the colored boy to beat yo behind
Last night
And the night before
I met my boyfriend at the candy store
He bought me ice cream
He bought me cake
He brought me home with a belly ache
I said Mama Mama, I feel sick
Call the doctor, quick quick quick
Doctor doctor, shall I die?
Just close your eyes and count to five
One, two, three, four, five
I'm alive!"
- From http://thechocolatetease.blogspot.com/2013/03/childhood-rhymes.html

This contributor is a Black American (as evidenced by a drawing of a Black girl on the bio section of her blog. Her location is given as "Michigan, United States]
-snip-
Here's some information about the term "colored":
In the United States "colored" ["Colored"] is short for "Colored people". This term, with or without capitalization, was used from the mid 19th century to around the mid 20th century as a referent for Black Americans. In the United States the term "Colored People" and "Colored" has almost completely been retired since around the 1970s, although it is still present in the official name for the civil rights organization NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Other than that usage, the term "Colored People" or "Colored" (in the United States) is largely considered offensive. Note the term "People of Color" (which refers to all races/ethnic groups other than White people) doesn't have the same meaning as "Colored People". "People of Color" has been used in the United States since the 2000s, and is largely considered favorably.
-snip-
My Comment about the rhyme "I Met My Boyfriend At The Candy Store" which is found in many of these racialized "I Like Coffee" rhymes:
A number of people have written that they believe "I Met My Boyfriend At The Candy Store" refers to the girl getting pregnant (i.e. "he brought me home with a tummy ache" etc.)

However, I think that it's possible that the girl has a tummy ache because she ate too much at the candy store.

Click for the pancocojams post: http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2014/01/bill-cosby-show-hand-clap-segment-i-met.html Bill Cosby Show Hand Clap Segment (I Met My Boyfriend At The Candy Store)

**
2.
"Down, down baby
Down, down the roller coaster
Sweet, sweet baby
I'll never let you go
Chimey chimey cocoa pop
Chimey, chimey pow
Chimey, chimey cocoa pop
Chimey, chimey pop
I like coffee, I like tea
I like a colored boy and he likes me
So lets here the rhythm of the hands, (clap, clap) 2x
Let hear the rhythm of the feet (stomp, stomp) 2x
Let's hear the rhythm of the head (ding dong) 2x
Let's hear the rhythm of the hot dog
Let's hear the rhythm of the hot dog
Put em all together and what do you get
(Clap clap, stomp stomp), ding dong, hot Dog!"
-Yasmin Hernadez; 2004; memories of New York City {Latino/ African American neighborhood in the 1980s; re-posted to https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=100653 "Down Down Baby-Race in Children's Rhymes" [hereafter given as "Mudcat: Down Down Baby, Race In Children's Rhymes" from www.cocojams.com [Cocojams.com is the name of my no longer active cultural website.]
-snip-
Note: I started this discussion thread on the online international folk music forum know as "mudcat" on April 2007.

As part of an email conversation this contributor and I had, Yasmin identified herself as a Latina from New York City.

**
3.
"Down down baby down by the roller coaster
sweet sweet baby mama never let you go
if you wanna kiss me just say you love me

Shimmy shimmy coco pop shimmy shimmy pow
shimmy shimmy coco pop shimmy shimmy pow

I like a black boy and he likes me
so step back white boy I ain't shy
I bet you 5 dollars i'll beat yo behind

Last night and the night before
I met my boyfriend at the candy store
he brought me ice cream he brought me cake
he brought me home with a belly ache

I said momma momma i'm so sick
call the doctor quick quick quick!

I said doctor doctor shall i die
he said close your eyes and count to 5

I said ah 1 ah 2 ah 3 ah 4 ah 5...
i'm alive on channel 5
scooby dooby doo on channel 2
big fat lady on channel 80
and all the rest on channel 8"
-GUEST,Meme; 03 Jul 14 - 07:03 PM; "Mudcat: Down Down Baby, Race In Children's Rhymes"

**
4.
"[I] Went to a pretty racially mixed elementary school in Georgia in the early 90's. We white girls *definitely* knew Down Down Baby as a story of white aggression:

"I like ice cream
I like tea
I like a white boy and he likes me
So stand back, black boy
You don't shine
I got a white boy to beat ya behind!"

I don't remember ever seeing black girls doing that rhyme, so I don't know if they did it differently. But as a child it made sense to me that the rhyme would assert white dominance. It was just another example of the casual racism we were immersed in in rural Georgia. Even at that age my white friends and I understood that a white boy beating up a black boy for flirting with his girl was the expected norm, not the other way around."
-GUEST,mindy, 28 Feb 15 - 06:10 PM, "Mudcat: Down Down Baby, Race In Children's Rhymes"

**
5.
"I like Ice cream I like tea I like a colored boy he likes me hey white boy white boy you don't shine if you call me a ni&&er* than I beat your behind you got bumps on your booty like Frankenstein

Cant believe we was clapping to this."
-GUEST, 21 Mar 16 - 06:13 PM, "Mudcat: Down Down Baby, Race In Children's Rhymes"
-snip-
*This word is fully spelled out in this comment.

**
6.
"down down baby down by the roller coaster sweet sweet baby mama never let you go if you wanna kiss me just say you love me shimmy shummy coa coa puff shimmy shimmy rah, shimmy shimmy coa coa puff shimmy shimmy rah. I like coffee I like tea. I like a black boy and he likes me so step back black boy you ain't shy I bet you 5 dollars I could beat your behind. Last night and the night before I met my boyfriend at the candy store. He bought me ice cream he bought me cake. He brought me home with a belly ache. I said momma momma I'm so sick. Call the doctor quick quick quick I said doctor doctor shall I die. He said close your eyes and count to 5 I said a12345 I'm alive on a channel 5 I said a678910 I'm dead on a channel 10 with a scooby dooby doo on channel 2. Frankenstein on channel 9. .....

that's how me and my friends do it. I'm 14 so...I guess it's sort of there..."
-By Alana on Saturday, July 3, 2004 http://www.streetplay.com/discus/cgi-discus/show.cgi?75/77.html [republished on "Mudcat: Down Down Baby, Race In Children's Rhymes"]

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7.
"I like coffee I like tea I like the color boy and he like me so step back white boy you don't shine I'll get the color border beat your behind said last night the night before I met my boyfriend at the candy store he bought me ice cream he bought me cake he brought me home with a belly ache I said Mama Mama I feel sick call the doctors quick quick quick doctor doctor should I die close your eyes and count to five I said A1 A2 A3 A4 A5 I'm alive you see that house on top of the hill that's where me and my baby going to live so scoop the ice cream Cut the Cake come on baby let's celebrate"
-William sisters, May 2018; [comment in discussion thread for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAFL7Po4DME I like coffee I like tea published by Lene w, Sep 5, 2012

**
8. "Childhood Songs & Rhymes: A Deeper Meaning
So what is the problem with young girls singing songs and jumping rope. Nothing, until you grow up and really analyze the words being recited. One of my favorites was, "I like coffee, I like tea. I like the colored boy, he likes me! So step back white boy, you don't shine! I'll get the colored boy to beat your behind! Last night, the night before, I met my boyfriend at the candy store. He bought me ice cream, he bought me cake, he bought me home with a belly ache. Mama, mama! I feel sick! Call the doctor, quick, quick, quick! Doctor, doctor should I die? Close your eyes and count to five!"
Wait a minute! Did I really just say that? While hearing this song in a new, more mature light, I discovered some alarming subliminal and not so subliminal messages.

The first part of the song is clear and descriptively written. Coffee and tea, as we know, are brown in color. They have been used as complexion descriptors for years and years. I've even used the words myself to describe my complexion. This may not be as offensive as what follows. The term "colored", is a term in which contains a dark past. The use of the word has been controversial. Some people think its an oppressive term that roots begin in slavery days. It was used to distinguish and separate whites and blacks during segregation. Water fountains would have signs reading, "whites only" and "coloreds only".

This song also teaches our children to discriminate other races and promote violence between races. Hopefully, many of our young girls aren't mature enough to comprehend the words that they speak. As for me, they were just empty words that were fun to sing. The question now becomes, are we willing to take that risk?”...
-From http://mrskazee.blogspot.com/2010/05/childhood-songs-rhymes-deeper-meaning.html, May 3, 2010

**
9.
Anyone remember:

Down, down baby
Down, down the rollercoaster
Sweet, sweet baby
I'll never let you go
Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa puff
Shimmy Shimmy Pow
Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa puff
Shimmy Shimmy Pow
I like coffee
I like tea
I like the black boy
And he likes me
So step back white boy
You ain't fly
I'll bet you five dollars
I'll beat ya behind

I think there's more but I can't remember
-Gina1201, 03-25-2003

This rhyme was posted to a discussion thread for members of historically Black Greek letter sororities.

"Fly" is African American Vernacular English for "hip" [knowledgeable about the latest street culture]

**
10.
oh gosh he's crazy oh gosh she's crazy take a piece take a plum take a piece of bubble gum no peace no palm know piece of bubble gum I like coffee I like tea I like the colored boy he likes me so stop that white boy he don't Shine taken around the corner and I beat his behind last night the night before I met my boyfriend at the candy store he bought me ice cream he bought me cake he brought me home with a stomach ache I said Mom Mom mama I feel sick call the doctor quick quick quick doctor ect.
-Shelby Robertson, 2012 [comment in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0KMFSj-FrQ&t=1s "Fun Hand Games" published by fatcat123455 on Dec 24, 2011
-snip-
This is a video of two Black young women performing "old school hand games from way back" [hand games = hand clap routines]

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11 [Added November 13, 2018]
INA LINA THUMBELINA TWO TIMES THUMBELINA IRIATCHEE LIRIATCHEE I LOVE YOU TAKE A PIECE TAKE A PLUM NOT A PIECE OF BUBBLEGUM I LIKE COFFEE I LIKE TEA I LIKE A BLACK/WHITE BOY AND HE LIKES ME SO STEP BACK WHITE/BLACK BOY YOU DONT SHINE IGOTTA A BLACK/WHITE BOY TO KICK YOUR BEHIND SEE THAT HOUSE ON TOP OF THAT HILL THATS WHERE ME AND MY BABY GNNA LEAVE WE GNNA CHOP SOME WOOD EAT SOME MEAT COME ON BABT LETS GO TO SLEEP
-GUEST,17yr old kid at heart:), 20 Jul 10, https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4300
-snip-
My guess is that White/Black and Black/White meant that some chanters said "I like a Black boy" [if they were Black] and then said "so step back White boy". Or if the chanters were White, they said "I like a White boy" and "step back Black boy".

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12 [Added November 24, 2018]
nikkiluv001 said:
Down, down, baby. Down, down, the roller coaster.
Sweet, sweet, baby. I’ll never let you go.
Chimmy chimmy coco pop. Chimmy chimmy pow.

I like coffee. I like tea.
I like a black boy, and he likes me.
So step back, white boy, you don’t shine.
I’ll get the black boy to beat your behind.

Let’s get the rhythm of the head DING-DONG!
Let’s get the rhythm of the hands
Let’s get the rhythm of the feet
Let’s get the rhythm of the hooooot dog Put it all together, and what do you get?
Ding-dong, clap-clap, stomp-stomp, hot dog!
Put it all backwards, and what do you get?
Hot dog, stomp-stomp, clap-clap, ding-dong!

OMG!!!

y'all are taking me back..

I think we said colored boy, though.. so strange because I grew up in the '90s...
-WNDRLST, Jun 24, 2017; https://www.lipstickalley.com/threads/black-girl-rhymes-what-was-yours-growing-up.1196979/page-2

WARNING: Some rhyme examples in lipstickalley.com contain profanity, sexually explicit content, and/or the n word.

I included this as an example of Black chanters in the 1990s retaining the referent "colored boy" even though that referent was no longer used as a referent for that population.

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1 comment:

  1. I just happened upon this racialized version of "Mz Suzy Had A Steamboat" [I've used italics for the racialized portion of this example to highlight it.]

    From https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=351152

    Mz Suzy had a steamboat
    The steamboat had a bell.
    Mz Suzy went to heaven, the steamboat went to
    HELLO operator, please give me number nine
    and if you disconnect me, ill chop off your
    BEHIND the ’frigerator there was a piece of glass
    Mz Suzy sat upon it and broke her big fat
    ASK no more questions, ill tell you no more lies.
    The boys are in the bathroom zipping up their
    FLIES are in the city, the bees are in the park.
    Mz Suzy and her boyfriend are kissing in the
    D A R K D A R K D A R K D A R K D A R K
    Darker than the ocean, darker than the sea
    Darker than the black boy kissing on my knee (muah muah)
    I know you know my ma
    I know you know my pa
    But do you know my sister with the 14 acre Bra bra bra"

    ReplyDelete