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. weh

    Roland as the saying goes "All is fair in love and war". To consider politics as pure politics and not war is naive. The battle for the democratic nomination has just begun and I would suggest that if Obama is not mentally tough enough to deal with the "no holds barred" of this political war, he is not qulaified to lead the country. And Mr. Martin you are not helping his cause by stating the obvious. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This is war!

    January 11, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |

    A lot of you may say I am BLACK and for HILLARY. Ok. Besides BILL CLINTON why do you SUPPORT Hillary? If you can honestly look inside your soul and give me 3 (JUST 3) valid reasons of WHY then go to the polls and vote your convictions. Just please DONT say because of BILL.

    Martin you are dead on with this assesment. That guy had NO RIGHT making that statement!! If you don't think its a low blow to the African American race then come walk in the shoes with me for a week.

    January 11, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. jcw - palmdale, ca

    Is everyone getting smoke blown in their faces by their favorite catepillar? I'm looking at these comments from the public, and from Mr. Martin, and I'm not sure if we're living in the Magic Kingdom trying to decide which Disney character is the best one to rule over the commoners. Because of these offbeat comparrisons, whether this one or that one measures up, or doesn't measure up, or maybe construed as racist, I'm gonna eat from the northside of the mushroom, since I have no idea what's going on.

    I do know I trust Clinton. I don't trust Obama – he's too much like Bush, sellng too much sewerwater for us to get sick on, disquised as medicine to heal us. He doesn't have seasoning, experience, or knowhow to deal with the world. He has vague ideas, nothing solid, on how to "solve" our issues.

    January 11, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. Tim Valentine

    Thank You Roland for clarifying this. I couldn't have said it better. You learn the true measure of a person in times of adversity, conflict and/or struggle. I would have suspected these types of tactics from Republicans and we still may see it, but for it to come from within the Democratic Party is interesting.

    This tells you that a change truely is coming.

    January 11, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. Sabrina

    This is just silly, anything to attack Hillary! How about the people from Obamas campaign that showed up at a Hillary event, wearing T- shirts that said clean my, wash my shirts and iron my shirts, I hear nothing about that- is that not sexest he gets a free ride.Tell me has any talking head said anything negative about him? I can tell you that the GOP will have a field day with his lack experience,the fact that he did not vote a lot when he was in the IL. senate was that calculated, so he does not have a record to be examined -– just wondering? The way the media acts you would think this guy walks on water!!!

    January 11, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. RuthieM

    I said when Obama started his run for presidency that the bigots would come out of the woodwork, and so it is.

    January 11, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  7. Eric in Massachusetts

    Kyle, I'm not an AA, but I am for HILLARY. I'm s SGDEFA (Swedish, German, Dutch, English, French American). And someone told me that there was some American Indian in me too somewhere... I am going to vote for Hillary because I belive in her. She is time-tested and "mother approved". The last part was a joke.

    There are numerous reasons why I will vote for her, but here are a couple:
    1) She works hard. She has lived her life knowing that she had to work twice as hard as men to get ahead. She can't stand being idle or lazy.
    2) She believes in fighting for all of us. I truly believe that she will work hard for everyone, except maybe the super rich. I'm on the upper end of the middle class scale, so she may not work as hard for someone like me. I don't need help. But I know plenty of people that do.
    3) She has real ideas and solid solutions on how to tackle some of our country's problems. She has the expertise and the drive to not only have an agenda, but she knows how to get it done. It will take more than "I've been to the mountain" to get people in Washington to do something.

    The Federal Government is a big machine. The largest employer in the world. The Executive branch must work with the Legislative and Judicial branches to effectively operate. She's seen that close up. Obama was a junior attorney while Hillary was smack dab in the middle of it. She was a very engaged First Lady and yes I do think that counts for something. Having Bill as "First Man" should not be viewed as a bad thing either. He will have quite a bit to contribute. We need people in the White House who know how to work within the DC machine. An outsider with "dreams" won't get far. The American People know this to be true and that's why they will not elect Obama. Nothing to do with race. He may have another shot in 8 years.

    January 11, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Robyn

    How do you think Hillary feels about all the gender-related attacks?

    January 11, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. Kevin, Louisville, Ky

    I am tried of the Black argument and the references to Barack.

    I want to let you what barack is not!

    he is not Black

    he is not White

    he is not a divider

    he is not fake or a fairytale

    He is
    Black and White
    and Multiplier of strenght, hope and aspirations of the American pple .what the country is about and wants to become......

    Go Barack!!

    January 11, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. Derek, Walpole NH

    Once again, there goes Roland Martin trying to make this election into a race issue. CNN would be more appropriate if they would continue to report just the facts, like they did years ago, rather than inundate us with their correspondents' opinions.

    January 11, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. Sean

    I think people are reading too much in to this. I wouldn't have thought one thing about it, but now it is a lead story. Just like comments by the golf channel anchor. Someone suggested avoiding any comments that people find offensive. I'm sorry but that changes daily. The problem lies in the fact that along as the race card is played everytime an issue like this is brought up, it will continue to be an issue. People like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are doing much more harm than good for racial issues. Everytime they shove their face on the TV screen or everytime Oprah and Obama use terms they normally would not use (See S.C. ) they are playing the issue and making a bigger separation rather than closing a separation that never should have been there in the first place. However, we can't change history, but we can work on the future and stop making big issues out of little comments from little people.

    January 11, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. KMac

    To the former "Good Times" viewer....the words "shucking and jiving" are nowhere near that song, and if you really grew up watching it you would know that...which pretty much makes the rest of your question for us thoughtful readers invalid.

    January 11, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. Sasha Rochester


    The racist remark made by Andrew Cuomo has nothing to do with Obama now.
    It shows me that my Democratic party has just as many racists as any other party.
    I voted for the Cuomo family members whenever they were up for office. NO MORE.

    January 11, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. Derek, Walpole NH

    It is a race issue. He's an African-American, and Senator Clinton is a woman. It is a huge deal to have two minority groups (at least in terms of politics, both are minorities) represented by the two front-runners. However, it's not fair to use your minority status only for political gain. Both Oprah and Obama are eloquent speakers, but during their campaign trail stops, they reduced their tone and pronunciation to what many consider "ebonics." Obama continued this trend with his concession speech in NH. Note how the letter R was not used at the end of words. This is a Harvard graduate we are talking about. He knows how to speak properly, but chooses when to do so for political gain. Because Lord knows that speech was targeted towards the South Carolina black community, which makes up 50% of the Democratic party in that state. So yes, "shuck and jive" may be inappropriate, but so is Obama's use of ebonics only when he pleases. If he's going to play the race card subtly, I'd rather someone just go out and be overt and honest about it!!!....and let's not forget, his ridiculous dances after several speeches aren't quite unlike a football player's endzone celebration...

    January 11, 2008 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. Nadeem


    January 11, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. Steve, Lyons, CO

    "Some of you may be saying that this is stupid and ridiculous. But understand the racial history of America."

    It is a stupid and ridiculous news item.

    Actions speak much louder than words. Mario Cuomo has always been a civil rights enthusiast, not just supporter, and was his entire political career.

    Now, how about a Ticker item on how President Criminal is trying to start a war with Iran?

    You know, real news.

    January 11, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. Eric in Massachusetts

    Ruthie, keep in mind that this is just the Democratic Primary. And the bigots seem to be the people who are FOR Obama. It's amazing. It's going to get uglier and uglier. Imagine if Obama gets the nomination and has to face the Republicans? The bigots who are supporting Obama now will be out in full force twisting every word they can in favor of race.

    January 11, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  18. Denise, Nebraska

    Holy cow (oops, offensive to farmers)...I mean, OH my gosh (oops, offensive to evangelicals)....I mean aw crap (ooops, offensive to "Dirty Jobs)...I mean "thats so Polish" ooops, offensive to ME! Guess I am dumb, it never occured to me the shuck and jive thing was racial..Just thought it meant avoiding the question. And, no, I'm not Republican. However, what does Sen. Obama think of all this? In my mind, his opinion is the only one that matters at this moment; all comments aside, if he is offended, so be me.

    January 11, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. Eric in Massachusetts

    Kevin of Louisville, Oprah does a better job of being a multiplier of strength and hope. But she knows better than to run for president. Oprah has better credentials than Obama. Heck, I have better credentials than Obama. It takes more than just an eloquent speech to run a country. Speeches don't geet things done. Actions do. That's the problem.... In the Democratic Primary, Obama cannot list any achievements other than having been born and raised in unique circumstances. That is not enough to cut it. The Republicans will tear him apart.

    The media is giving him a free pass right now because he is a good speaker and ratings go up when people watch. Government and politicians are not as easily fooled.

    We need some experience in the White House. God knows Bush didn't have any and look what happened. Vote for Hillary. if Obama is nominated, then vote for McCain or Romney.

    January 11, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Bern Hicksville NY

    I don't think Obama has a snowball's chance in hell of winning even the primary. I don't think a lot of people understand this is not about Obama but about the Democrats making racist remarks. I expected all kinds of nasty stuff from the Republicans, but, as it turns out, the racist actions are coming from my friends, the Democrats.

    I am turning Independent tomorrow.

    I am African American but I like Mike Huckabee. I also have a lot more respect for Mitt Romney because of his emotional statements about his father's support for Martin Luther King.

    I was very disappointed with Shaheen of New Hampshire, Bill Clinton's remarks about Obama, Bob Kerry's remarks; Mark Penn's remarks; etc., etc.,
    and now Andrew Cuomo. I would never have thought any member of the Cuomo family would say such a thing. I find it hard to believe but I know it's true.

    January 11, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. major sigh

    Just like "lynch him in the back alley" comment (i.e. Tiger Woods), you cannot, once again, explain the embedded racism of this country that, once again, we are all supposed to tolerate. An outcry from another oppressed group is "advocacy" and "civil rights;" same outcry from African-Americans is deemed "complaining" and a "who cares." Major sigh.

    January 11, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. chall

    This is way over the top. If the Clintons win the Democratic Nomination I will not be voting for them this time. It shows what they really think about Blacks. They will get dirty with Obama, and when they do they will loose a large segment of their voting block.

    January 11, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. andy

    Im a latino and from this side of the fence it is a election that race is becoming more and more the wedge to who will be elected ! I really don't care to hear who is white or black or brown but who can lead and at this point all I see is everyone calling foul! As Latinos watch from the side line we are making are own minds up by content and not by who is more popular! you have to understand that latinos have a very very big issue that is dear to there hearts and to there children and so we listen and determine with out the media or others making a fuss of race ! so listen and if we did more listening we would hear the truth because I have always been told listen before you speak because what you say may never ever be taken back! if you want to continue the same argument thats cool but for hispanic we don't intend to have are children's lives be determine by who is white or black but who has the right answers for the right question ! like the economy, illegal immigration, the iraq and afgan and pakistan problems, how the chinese are making are dollar shrink, how we are losing our homes and are schools are falling apart, how the who country at this point does not seem to have strength with in its self. all I can say is becareful for what you wish for you may get it and then when it bites you its on you. so listen to what is said not the media or the racist and they are all colors in here I see! I hope Im reading your mail because if i am then maybe you should grow up and do the right thing for the country and vote for what makes us strong. Im not here to indorse or side with you but to say the media is making us sick look what we say and how we think all of us and me too!

    January 11, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  24. Independent in IA

    Roland Martin's mentors are Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton. What else do you expect? For him to have even one original thought would be an extravagant exageration. For him, it's all about race and what he perceives as being 'owed' to them.

    January 11, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  25. chuck

    Wow – you got to love how words can be twisted. "Shucking and Jiving" may have started as a black expression for "clowning or lying" but for at least the last forty years it has meant someone talking fast and not telling the truth. The politically correct expression of today would be "spinning." Clearly it is an "urban" expression and the attorney general in his younger day did grow up on the sidewalks and clubs of New York. I am sure he from time to time called some of his best friends "Jive (explitive) (explitive)."

    Some how I don't see how this makes him a racist and I have no clue how it relates to Clinton.

    January 11, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
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