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

Martin: 'Shucking and jiving' and the campaign trail

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/11/art.cuomo.gi.jpg caption="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. AJ, IL

    dmw, roeland park of ks.....YOU ARE WRONG!

    Roland Martin does have a point. Obama is trying ascend above the common improper racial attitudes that exist in America to some degree. I think that Obama's message resonates with people and that is why many blacks and whites support his candidacy. When Jesse Jackson ran for President he wasn't supported by the "black guys in the media". When Al Sharpton ran for President he wasn't supported by the "black guys in the media". When ALAN KEYES ran (in fact he is running NOW) for President he wasn't supported by the "black guys in the media".

    South Carolinians should take note of the numerous racial statements coming from Hillary supporters such as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and penalize her for it. If Hillary is not denouncing this rhetoric coming out of her camp then she supports it. Plain and Simple!

    January 11, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. Jeffim Kuznetsov

    I would call you the biggest racist misogynist on CNN. You are going out of your way to look for racial discrimination in white man's words. Well, just for the records, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Junior US Senator and deserves just as much respect as the Freshman Senator, despite her colour and gender. And just because former president questioned Obama on issues, does not make him a racist.
    So swallow your pride, and start playing the racial card. Don't forget, white Clintons did more for the African American community then any black political pundit. No wonder, Clinton is also known as the "First Black President".

    January 11, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  3. why further divide?

    This article feels more racist and aimed to divide than anything. I'm sure you're much more familiar than I with the tons of actual racism in America – you don't need to stretch to find it. Clinton calling Obama a 'kid' is an attempt to undermine his experience, nothing more. To reach like this does a disservice to the actual injustices out there. To me, if you have to reframe every conversation around Obama, who I am a huge supporter of, to connect it back to racism you're having some race issues yourself.

    This will come off as stretched logic, but realize it will sound to you exactly as yours sounds to me:

    By saying Clinton is treating Obama like a servant boy is equally projecting a history of slave ownership onto someone who never did such a thing. If two minorities were running and one looked significantly younger and the main issue of the campaign was experience and the older began referring to the other as "kid" you would never think twice same as two white people in the situation. So by chaning the guidelines for Obama you are making his race his primary identification as a person, something I know many of us, yourself included, are hoping to move past.

    I'm sure this is also a generational thing – as I'm not exactly clear enough on the shuck and jive connection – except that I associate the origin of those terms with black music but also take them to have been appropriated by white music in the 50's – I'm sure I'm missing something.

    I know this is on the front page because of Tiger Woods. Again, I know the connotation of 'lynch' in America, but when I think of lynch, i think of "lynch mob" and picture people with torches chasing Frankenstein. That's not a joke or a disrespect, it's just what I picture when I think of Lynch because the former context has never been part of my reality or way of thinking. I think a lot of people feel this way because they grew up in contexts removed from racial tensions and so these terms have more innocent connotations for them. I understand that it is still hurtful on the other end, but attacking the person who made the comment innocently is like preaching to the choir and punishing them while you're at it, and also adding further fuel to people looking for a reason to further press the racial divide.

    Again, none of this is to take away from the actual race issue in America, which I know I cannot begin to understand. The 99 wrongs have shaped your view so that the 100th neutral is "wrong enough" as well. And I can't see it your way, and you can't see it mine. It's a drag. This sort of thing just builds more distrust between folks.

    Ah well. Happy New Year. thanks for generating discussion.

    January 11, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. Eric in Massachusetts

    Lorraine, Bb Kerrey stated Obama's full name and you think that is a bad thing? Why should Obama be ashamed of his name? Would you fault someone in the Obama side of the fence for saying " Hillary Rodham Clinton"? Gimme a break.

    Obama's full legal name, which I assume he is proud of, is:
    Baracka Hussein Obama.

    January 11, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  5. veronica

    I give black voters more credit than to buy into this stuff you're writing about. I think they are independent thinkers, and will vote for the person they feel is most qualified, and most able to be elected based on their qualifications for the job of POTUS.
    After all, isn't the point to actually elect a Democrat after 8 disastrous years of George Bush?
    People say things in casual conversation–not everything people say in conversation
    should be picked at in this way. It's ridiculous.

    January 11, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  6. Brandon Memphis/Louisville

    I'm Black and I'm for Hillary!

    January 11, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. Micahel Guinn, Ventura, CA

    More of the SAME. We know that the ammo will be flying after Obama wins the nomination. We're not "crying and pouting" about it..but we are saying it's wrong! That's what this campaign is about- CHANGING THE STATUS QUO which includes racial slurs and profiling a candidate. This would also include HRC – WOMEN deserve a chance at the Nomination. The fact that that Hillary is a brilliant woman should be a possitive rather than a negative. We NEED CHANGE NOW! Obama 08!

    January 11, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  8. Dan, TX

    This is just one more drop in the bucket for Clinton supporters. I think Bill Clinton has nudge-nudge wink-wink made it open season to plays to the mental models that people have that might paint Obama in a negative light. It is particularly distressing that Bill Clinton called Obama a kid, when he's the same age Bill Clinton was when he ran.

    As a white man the same age as Barack Obama, I don't think someone calling me a kid is very appropriate. And, Barack Obama has accomplished a hell of a lot more to help people than I ever will.

    This election is shaping up as Bill Clinton vs. Barack Obama, with Hillary just having her strings pulled by Bill. Talk about a potential puppet government.

    January 11, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. Tree

    Eric before you make dumb racial remarks you need to read about the world you so grave white superemcy

    Any guess on how many of these company are ran by rich powerful white male

    LA TIMES – To fuel her rise, Clinton has relied on the controversial funding device known as "earmarking." The earmarks enabled her to win favor with important constituents, many of whom provided financial support for her campaigns. . . Since taking office in 2001, Clinton has delivered $500 million worth of earmarks that have specifically benefited 59 corporations. About 64% of those corporations provided funds to her campaigns through donations made by employees, executives, board members or lobbyists, a review by the Los Angeles Times shows.

    All told, Clinton has earmarked more than $2.3 billion in federal appropriations for projects in her state

    January 11, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Ivelisse

    I use to look forward to Roland's column...usually insightful and well written.....but every since Obama came into the political arena and showed that he actually has a fighting chance to get elected President.... Roland has turn into the "Brother Al and Brother Jesse" of the next generation....

    Roland: as a white woman with a black grandmother on one side and an Indian grandmother in the other, with a lot of Latino blood in me, I can tell you this: EVERYTHING HAVE ETHNIC CONNOTATIONS, IF YOU LOOK FOR THEM.....

    January 11, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Obama is doing on-the-job tranning. "Where's the Beef?

    January 11, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. Marcus Stephens

    Its interesting how be often you obviously racist and often belittling terms when referring to African Americans. Then, when everyone pays attention to it, they backtrack and say it wasn't meant like that. What it goes to show is the underlying bias that people hold within without knowing it. I'm sure we could fill a notebook with the statements that have been made by other politicians, their backers, and staff. If someone could find me anything in the last 20 years of politics where the term "shucking and jiving" was used to equate "bobbing and weaving" then I would agree that this was a pointless article by Roland Martin.....I'll wait.

    January 11, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  13. Tom Dedham, Mass

    AGAIN another SUPPORTER of Hillary shows their "true colors" and AGAIN explanations and excuses and backtracking are necessary to explain what was "meant".

    We went through this BS for eight years and how many times just in this campaign, we can't afford to get nothing down for four more years while damage control and press conferences are being held not too talk about how to fix things, but simply to "explain things".

    Before one of you sheep say it, I'll beat you to the punch, Kerrey, Shaheen, Cuomo etc, etc are only SUPPORTERS of Hilary now, but they and people just like them would become PART OF HER ADMINISTRATION.

    Think about it.

    January 11, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  14. Eric in Massachusetts

    This is amazing to be debating whether we want to elect the first black man or first woman President of the US. Those are the choices on the Dem side. Amazing. We don't have really good choices on the Republican side either. McCain is pretty decent, Romney and Huckabee are both a little too conservative. But, let's think about this. Any of those 3 on the Republican side would beat Obama. Obama has NO EXPERIEINCE. He was a junior attorney in Illinois 10 years ago. He only graduated law school around the time Bill Clinton was elected. He's young and no political experience.

    I understand the mantra of change, but you still need to work within the political system when you're in DC. Go outside and nothing will get done. A President in this country is not omnipotent. They have a lot of free reign with foreign policy, but not with domestic. He/she must work with Congress. Every single one of the potential candidates wants change. I don't hear a single candidate chanting "status quo". It just doesn't happen.

    The following people have what it take to run a country and to bring about change here: Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney. If Hillary is not nominated by the Dems, then I will vote for any of the 3 Republicans before I'd cast a vote for Obama. It has nothing to do with the country not being rready to elect him. It has everything to do with him not being ready to be elected.

    Obama needs more experience. A partial first term in the Senate is not enough experience. He needs to get more than his toes wet, he needs to get in waist deep and accomplish some things. He needs to attend votes and cast votes that are significant and not just be absent because he knows he will run for President and does not want a controversial vote on his record. He needs to prove himself. It's more than just rhetoric. He may have better luck in 8 years. Not now.

    January 11, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. Joseph Giovannetti

    This article by Roland Martin, whoever that is, is such ridiculous race baiting that it forces me to make this the first time I have ever contributed to any blog: I am WHITE and I have always been WHITE. I am a 30 year old male who served in the US Army for on Active Duty for three and a half years. Sound like a likely description of a Republican? Not likey. I voted for Bush twice and now I wish he would self-exile to another planet. I, like millions of Americans were sold into a slavery concocted by the Bush administration aka The Iraq War. After tens of thousands of US and Iraq dead and hundreds of thousands of injured and permanently dehabilitated for life, I wonder whether the "shock and awe" of 9/11 was just the needed distraction for Bush and his greedy cronies to enact their own "shock and awe" on Iraq and the entire world. As a soldier tricked into this scam, I now look at 9/11 as the TV bomb that exploded into America's TV war. The bottom line: my generation is tired of the lying and the games. I was also a conscious observer of the Clinton administration. I remember that at around age 21 I was horrified that the glorious America that I had just learned all about in high school was being savagely raped by a government trying to tear down their president. The scandals consumed us and I knew even at that age that there was no way in the world our president should be receiving oral sex in the office that George Washington made possible, that Lincoln died for, that FDR fortified by winning World War II, and that JFK and Reagan and many others graced. Again, the bottom line is that there is a segment of this country, and I believe it is made up of the people supporting Barrack Obama. They are young, they are idealistic, and they do not care whether Senator is black, white, purple or orange. Seriously, who cares? The people who care are those millions of Americans are still racists. They are ignorant and prove that the Archie Bunker mentality is still out there. Racism must die and roland Martin is certainly right to be fighting it since it is so obviously alive. However, Mr. Martin must not cite dictionaries for words and phrases that date all the way back to eighteen seventy whatever. That in and of itself is ignorance by seeking to bring to attention something that is so dated that almost no one really no what it means. I leave it to the brilliant wordsmiths out there that can cite hundreds of words we use today that have numerous negative connotations from three hundred years ago. Mr. Martin says he has never heard the phrase used to refer to anyone white. Perhaps Mr. Martin should write commentaries about things he has in fact heard instead of things that others may hear regularly such as myself. My boss is a white male and I have never detected any racism in him. He is of a different religion than I am yet he treats me with honest respect. He frequently uses the phrase "shuck and jive" to refer to himself and how he must constantly "talk" to earn his living. there is no cynicism in his tone. He is simply telling me that he is always "running his mouth" every day. That Mr. Roland defies the fundamental premise of your article. The phrase "shuck and jive" should be used by anyone who feels like it. By attempting to claim the use of these words by a white man is subtle racism, Mr. Martin himself becomes not only a racist himself but also a defamer, just by virtue of raising the issue against Andrew Cuomo, and a race-baiter. Who are you Mr. Martin to tell us which words we can and can't use based on an 1870's dictionary. You, Mr. Roland, are the racist.

    January 11, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  16. Calvin, Columbia, SC

    African-Americans will rally around Clinton in the end, you can bet the house on it. No, I am not White–I am mixed like Obama and I am a neutral democrat.

    January 11, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  17. Eric in Massachusetts

    Tree, what racist comment?

    As far as the earmarks go, that's what senators and congressmen do. They are there to do a job for their consituents. Her constituents are the peoplee of the State of New York. Obama's constituents are the people of the State of Illinois.

    When congressmen and senators run for President, they tend to "forget" about their consituents. They do things that are popular for the country, so that they can win a nationwide election. That is not being honest.

    Kerry did it prior to 2004. It's why I voted for Bush before him. He was not honest with us or the american people. At least Hillary is doing things for her constituents. It's her job. To show up and vote. Something Obama was to power-driven to see.

    January 11, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  18. A.K. Westchester NY

    Calvin, Columbia, SC January 11, 2008 12:11 pm ET

    Blacks will rally around Clinton in the end, you can bet the house on it. No, I am not White–I am mixed like Obama and I am a neutral democrat.

    Calvin, you have got to be kidding or you don't know black people at all. Ask Jimmy Carter what a whole lot of black people did during his second run.

    January 11, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. California voter

    When I was growing up my (Caucasian) father used the phrase "shuckin' and jivin'" to mean fooling around with one's friends. I never heard him use it to refer to African Americans and it never occurred to me that some people might consider it a racial slur. He's used that phrase for years and to me it just meant playing around, hanging out, shooting the breeze, etc.

    January 11, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. Double Standard

    Article writers like these and journalists like the ones who have taken over the cable news are doing their best to spread the theme of racism in order to benefit Obama. He doesn't need this negative help, but so long as you keep asserting that whites are racist against a half-white half-black candidate, you are directly offending me and many others.

    I was lucky enough to grow up without being taught racism. I have spent my life open to all as equal. However, these accuasations that are coming in daily are driving me into feelings that are uncomfortable. No matter what the voters of Nh did, it must have been racist. Bill Clinton saying that Obama was in a fairytale if he thinks that dems and republicans will just fall into each others arms is considered an offense to African Americans as stated by Dawn Basile (sp) of CNN. Obama's laziness is an offense to Blacks all over the country, please. Voters in NH were accused of RACISM because they voted the way they wanted to...IF OBAMA AND ALL OF HIS CAMPAIGN PEOPLE AND THE JOURNALISTS WHO SEEM TO HAVE ALREADY CORONATED HIM AND ALL THE OTHERS WHO ARE VOTING FOR HIM CONTINUE TO USE THIS RACE CARD, THE LEGITIMATELY OFFENDED WHITES WILL REACT.


    If whites were to state that they are counting on the "white vote" to win South Carolina or any other competition-God help the uproar.

    If whites were to state something as Chris Rock did in his introduction to an Obama rally that we need to vote for a black man and not be caught voting for that white woman, whites would be blasted by the black community.

    If whites were to state on national tv or anywhere for that matter that they were voting for a candidate because he or she is white, they'd be made out ot be horrible.

    and on and on it goes...

    I would not have considered my thoughts prior to this race for President racist ones...and I am trying hard to maintain my views,

    But I am getting worn down as a white voter in this country and won't last long if everything continues to be blamed on race.

    Having said that, I recognize that some things said by some people may have racial undertones, but the part does not make the whole.

    Continuing in this direction, though, may just head this country in toward the whole.


    January 11, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  21. Xavier, Washington, DC

    It seems that most of the posters are commenting on a topic with which they are unfamiliar. Hence, the unwarranted attack on Roland. There is a long history associated with the term "shucking and jiving". The term is used to describe when a black person "performs", usually by smiling and behaving submissively or by "acting a fool" to give white people a sense of superiority. The one knock Obama has been receiving since he first stepped onto the national stage is that he wasn't black enough or that he was a white man's puppet. Associating shucking and jiving with Obama is merely another shameless attack on the authenticity of his blackness. In light of the fact that the South Carolina primary is coming up soon and will have a large black vote, I am certain the use of the term “shucking and jiving” was calculated and not incidental.

    January 11, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  22. Mary Brooklyn

    Boy, this is such a surprise. Who would have ever thought that Mario Cuomo's son would say such a thing? It makes me wonder about the father.

    Compare that with what Romney said about his father marching with Dr. Martin Luther King.

    Boy, I am surprised and I am also offended. I think Mrs. Clinton has decided to play her race card to win.

    You may win the nomination, mam, but, you are not going to win the general election.

    I would sit out this election for the first time in my sixty years before I vote for Mrs. Clinton.

    Shame on you, Andrew Cuomo. I thought I would be voting for you for congress. I don't know what to say. It makes me wonder what your father really thinks of the black people who love and respect him.

    This is very disappointing to me.

    January 11, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. rn

    Cuomo is a godfather in a Italian mob!

    January 11, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. Rob Pearce

    When Obama was at the Apollo theater Chris Rock told guests they'd be "embarassed" if Obama won and they had been backing Clinton instead. "You'd say, 'I had that white lady! What was I thinking?'"
    switch that around and listen to people freak out.
    It makes me laugh that I have this " be color blind, don't be so shallow " crap shoved down my throat and then read about :

    Miss black America awards
    Black music awards
    Black entertainment television
    Black writers guild

    and many, many more, It doesnt seem to me that black people are ready to be color blind themselves, please don't give me a history lesson, we have come a long way and any black person has the same chance as me at being succesful, any more its just between the rich and the poor.
    Obama uses slang himself, Oprah is "my girl" remember, whats next
    "my bad" ? My concern is that we have had presidents that screwed me over for rich people, now I am going to get screwed again because I am white, I mean really, any politicion that has anything to do with Al sharpton loses a major amount of respect from me.

    January 11, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. VF

    Everyone needs to calm down. Barack Obama is not running in this election to make this country "BLACK AMERICA." He is a magnificent man who wants the privilege and honor of helping this country become what it says it is.

    There seems to be this perception in "White America" that Black Americans don't love this country as much as they do. Yes our ancestors where enslaved, but today it seems that some whites are the ones chained and shackled. Free your mind and your heart will follow and I think you will see that Mr. Obama wants to change this country and help make it better.

    So just relax and feel the love, courage, intelligence, and humor, etc. eminating from this beautiful man; who just happens to be black which is a good thing.

    Stop listening to the pundits or the Clintons or anyone else and just listen to Barack. He hasn't lied yet. Go to his web site and read his answers to all the questions you may have about him and his record or pick up one of the two books he wrote himself about his life, there is nothing sugar coated, there is only the truth.

    This man is above all the racial crap that the political machines in this country are slowly throwing his way. He's a strong man with a lot of dignity and I don't believe he is going to let the stupidity of those who are afraid stop him.

    Be well, VF

    January 11, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
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