(CNN) - During last week’s debate in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton took some heat from rival Barack Obama, by essentially saying words don’t mean much without action.
He responded that words do have meaning. With that in mind, do the words of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo have a hidden meaning?
In a discussion with an Albany radio station, Cuomo offered this assessment of Clinton’s win in New Hampshire as it relates to retail politics: ”It’s not a TV-crazed race. Frankly you can’t buy your way into it,” Cuomo said. “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference. All those moves you can make with the press don’t work when you’re in someone’s living room.”
Yes, shuck and jive.
Now, Cuomo has quickly tried to clean up his statement by suggesting that it wasn’t meant at Obama – so who was he talking about, Bill Richardson? Yeah, right. He also said that he meant something akin to bobbing and weaving and ducking the tough questions. Well, why not say bobbing and weaving?
Some of you may be saying that this is stupid and ridiculous. But understand the racial history of America.
“Shucking and jiving” have long been words used as a negative assessment of African Americans, along the lines of a “foot shufflin’ Negro.” In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing the phrase used in reference to anyone white.
According to a story in Newsday, “The 1994 book ‘Juba to Jive, a Dictionary of African-American Slang,’ says ‘shuck and jive’ dates back to the 1870s and was an ‘originally southern 'Negro' expression for clowning, lying, pretense.’"
There is a such thing as political correctness gone mad, with folks being too sensitive. But it’s also about respect. And America’s long racial and sordid history still has ramifications today.
When African Americans hear former President Bill Clinton call Obama a kid, that is seen as an insult. He’s a 46-year-old man who is a United States senator. It is remindful of grown black men being called “boy” during the Jim Crow era. You might say no harm done, but trust me, the context has meaning.
The same goes for shuck and jive. I just don’t think for a second that if the battle was between John Edwards and Clinton, shuck and jive would have been used.
- CNN Contributor Roland Martin