January 11th, 2008
09:58 AM ET
2 years ago

Martin: 'Shucking and jiving' and the campaign trail

Andrew Cuomo is a supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Andrew Cuomo is a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

(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

soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Azar

    The Clintons and the top advisors have decided to inject race and gender into the primaries. They are out win even if their victory will divide the country further. They are shameless and selfish.

    January 11, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. Anna Long Island NY

    To Fred, Reston Va

    Well, you must be a liberal. That's your problem, not mine.

    January 11, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  3. Eric in Massachusetts

    To the "Truth" from Anywhere USA. I can understand your disappointment. I am an independent, so I owe nothing to either party. I WILL vote for whomever I think will lead our Country best. My first choice, right now, is Hillary Clinton. If Obama is on the Dem ticket, it will take a whole lot of convincing to get me to vote for him. He is an opportunist. He has absolutely no credentials. No track record on issues that count. He skips those votes. He has no executive experience. He has no Foreign Relations experience. Going to a madrassa in Indonesia when he was a child is not Foreign Relations experience anymore than going to Kindergarten in the US is domestic experience.

    You can call me divisive. I could not care less. I'm an independent and I WILL NEVER vote for Baracka Hussein Obama. I should not say never, but definitely not in the 2008 election. If he finishes one term in Congress and builds a good track record, I will consider him later on.

    Obama is a like a "One hit wonder" with his speech at the 2004 convention and his books. He hasn't done anything else.

    Sorry to disappoint you. I speak only the truth as I see it.

    January 11, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. CMC, New Mexico

    Wow, can't believe that it's 2008, and not 1958!

    Eric in Massachusetts: go to realclearpolitics.com where there are polls matching up the possible democratic nominee with all the (major) Republican possibles nominees. OBAMA beats them ALL (including my least favorite, the sk_nky Guliani), Only he & McCain are in a tie.

    And white folks, I truly love all people (my best friend is Irish-American), but I am so UTTERLY fed up with those of you saying "It's not racist". As an older African American woman, I wouldn't deem to judge what's not anti-gay, or not anti-Hispanic., etc. What makes you think YOU know what it feels like to hear certain expressions when you're not wearing the skin, or the sexual orientation, or the religion?

    As Prince said "Mr Man: We tired y'all"

    January 12, 2008 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  5. Von

    I GUESS I WAS JUST PLAIN NAIVE; I THOUGHT THIS COUNTRY HAD COME A LONG WAY BUT I SEE NOW THAT WE WERE ONLY TRAVELING IN A CIRCLE TO END UP FROM WHERE WE STARTED.

    I'M STILL PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN; JUST A LITTLE SADDER AFTER READING SOME OF THE NASTY REMARKS MADE BY MY FELLOW AMERICANS.
    TOO BAD FOR OUR COUTRY.

    I expect more nasty remarks to follow this post if it makes it to the blogs. So, go ahead folks.

    January 12, 2008 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  6. Von

    To Fred, Reston Va

    You sound like the crazy person. You do realize there is such a thing as "Free Speech" in this country.

    I also do not think you are black. Now, rant and rave at me.

    January 12, 2008 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  7. Schneider

    CHRISTINE OF KANSAS,

    YOU ARE A VERY ANGRY PERSON. I DON'T KNOW FROM WHERE YOUR VENOM COMES, BUT YOU NEED SOME SERIOUS THERAPY.

    January 12, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  8. Leslie

    Roland is 100% correct. Please keep this type of analysis coming. America needs to hear it.

    January 13, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  9. scott emily

    Roland, shuck and jive me an answer to a simple answer.
    whats the difference between the black power flag with the angry fist and the rebel flag. they both represent the worst of both races. there is but one race, the human race.
    educate me please?
    a native america by heart.
    scott bowling green,mo.

    January 21, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. alabama

    Roland keep up the much needed work. Love ya!

    January 27, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
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