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. Fred, Reston Va

    To Kyle in South Carolina,

    Did it ever occur to you that some black people like myself actually do not like Obama, and that we are for Hillary for reasons other than Bill? I personally find Obama's comparison to JFK and MLK offensive, because both of them were do-ers not talkers. He tries to attach his ego to their vision of the future, and I for one am not impressed.

    I would challenge you or anyone else to say 3 reasons why they support Obama and not say anything cliche like "fired up" or "change" Fired up to do what? Invade Pakistan? Change to what? Trillion dollar tax increase to pay for socailism? Please. There are many valid reasons to support Clinton over Obama within our black community. Look at the race with colorblind eyes, and no rational person can honestly say Obama is the best person for the job.

    By the way. remember he said drivers liscenses to illegal immigrants in the cnn debate. A 30 second spot run over and over in October will gurantee a loss for Mr Obama my friend.

    January 11, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. Rob

    This is why Clinton will not get my vote. I understand why women who supported her for getting emotional but in my opinion they will be hypocrites if they do not take this and her diminishing statements about Dr. King in account. Please with all due respect to all voters, please be fair. Obama 08!

    January 11, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. Agt. Smart

    Barack is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He or Hillary will have the entire country under islamic rule within 4 years. One intentionally, the other unintentionally. If you choose to elect them then you too will be to blame for the destruction of this country.

    The democrats can give us a lot of things. Some good, some bad. But there is one thing they will not do and that is defend our country from those that wish to destroy all of western civilization. They also will not defend us from becoming a country who no longer has sovereignty or an identity caused by the invasion by our friendly neighbors from the south.

    So you can vote for "free" health care, higher taxes, the outlaw of firearms, and more government control of your lives if you wish. But the chance of you getting to live in your own private utopia would be in serious jeopardy. A country worth living in can have nothing without security. So DEMS, I suggest you buy a nice peace of property in the mountains and store plenty of food and water.

    January 11, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  4. anna Long Island

    TO: Fred, Reston Va January 11, 2008 2:15 pm ET

    To Kyle in South Carolina,

    I am really African American and I do not plan to vote for any Democrats.

    I like MIKE (Huckabee) and I HATE ALL LIBERALS.

    By the way, Fred, I do not think you are black. Just my opinion.

    January 11, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. Eric in Massachusetts

    Dear Roland Martin,
    If I had written a book entitled "Speak, Friend: A White Man's View of America", you'd be all over it. Journalists like you will bring Obama down, which I guess I should be thankful. But in the end, you will just fracture the Democratic party even more. Although it is pretty clear that Obama is unsure insecure in his background, it also is clear that he did not want to bring race into things.

    Get over your anger. In your entire lifetime (and mine) and back even more, you have had the same rights and opportunities that I have. Stop the anger. Stop the racism. Let the candidates do their own thing without playing "policeman" on the race card. The American voters are smarter than that and don't need you pointing out every seeming transgression. It's a bit old.

    January 11, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  6. James

    Hey, some people on this blog represent the double-standard for AA's. Whenever someone who is AA stands up for another of the same race, we're doing it because they're black. HELLO... who is the only other person going against Hillary right now? If this was said when all of the democratic candidates we're still in the race, maybe you all might have a point of your "versions" of the definition. However, the main complaint by non-Obama supporters is that he's all show and no action. Shuck and jive.... all show.... African-American. There's no connection there?

    January 11, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  7. Sam North Myrtle

    I think one of the reason Obama has so many votes is that people are trying to tell the press that American aren't as racist as the press insist we are.
    That was just a comment, using a common phrase.

    January 11, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Courtney S.

    The "Liberals" are at it again. As I have noticed throughout my life (I'm a Black Woman who has grown up in a variety of mostly white areas throughout the country), that the liberal whites are generally more racist. I prefer the South (where they at least OWN it)

    "Shuck & Jive" the use of a term that is loaded and has been used in the past to describe black people actions. This election is getting heated and race is an underlining issue. Our subconscious minds says and use terms that we learn as children and stereotypes that are ingrained this culture. We in this country have very short memories. 1964 was 44 years ago…not to long ago and that is when Black's were granted the right to vote. Seen as equal individuals in the eyes of the constitution. 44 years ago and that didn't end, segregation or any of these issues.
    Cuomo is a product of that generation (and in the Clinton's pocket) He was apart of Bill's administration and OWES favors...AS does HILLIARY….

    TRUST this one of many "loaded terms" that will be used the by the Clinton's & Republicans. This election will truly show us where we as a country are. REALLY
    OBAMA '08!

    January 11, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. Eric in Massachusetts

    Courtney, Cuomo said it. Not Hillary. If you think Hillary can control what people say, then why wouldn't you vote for her? She'd be the second coming. Free will people. Personally, I don't see the big deal with what he said. But if some do, just remember that Cuomo is not Hillary.

    Look at Kerry's endorsement of Obama. Kerry kept saying "we" but I'm not about to condemn Obama for secretly planning to have Kerry as a running mate. That would sink Obama. Kerry just opened his mouth and inserted foot.

    People are not perfect by any means.

    January 11, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  10. nmendes11

    All the defenders of this statement are saying: "It doesn't offend me, therefore, it must not be offensive."

    This is why this country is so screwed up.

    January 11, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  11. nicole

    A person ( Cindy i think it was_) made the comment that the Theme of Good Times features the team shucking and jiving... NO IT DOESNT .. its Scratchin’ and surviving. Maybe your ears wanted to hear Shucking and jiving.... Now Im not calling you a racist but.... here is the theme for your info 😛


    Good Times.
    Any time you meet a payment. – Good Times.
    Any time you need a friend. – Good Times.
    Any time you’re out from under.
    Not getting hassled, not getting hustled.
    Keepin’ your head above water,
    Making a wave when you can.

    Temporary lay offs. – Good Times.
    Easy credit rip offs. – Good Times.
    Scratchin’ and surviving. – Good Times.
    Hangin in a chow line – Good Times.
    Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em – Good Times.


    Just lookin' out of the window.
    Watchin' the asphalt grow.
    Thinkin' how it all looks hand-me-down.
    Good Times, yeah, yeah Good Times

    Keepin' your head above water
    Makin' a wave when you can

    Temporary lay offs. – Good Times.
    VOICE-OVER spoken by John Amos: Good Times was recorded in front of a live studio audience
    Easy credit rip offs. – Good Times.
    Ain't we lucky we got 'em – Good Times.

    January 11, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. Daniel Cota

    When is Mr. Roland Martin going to officially join Sen. Obama's election staff?

    January 11, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. jcw - palmdale, ca

    Copyrighted from Disneyland. "It's a small world, after all. It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all, it's a small, small world." Welcome to Disneyland! Pick your favorite character to run, your favorite magical land, find a huge mushroom, pick out your pipe, and just be mentally wasted.

    That's the feeling I'm getting from the general public, and from the candidates. Might as well vote for Micky Mouse for President. He's the safest candidate. The way you folks are rolling in the bloody mess, you might as well go for the mouse. At least, he's got character. He's already America's darling. Racist, not a racist! You get some yahoo throwing out chum, and here comes the frenzy! Hello, fishies! Love the shark fest? Love getting torn apart by the other shark trying to get that last tidbit? "I'm this, so life should be, and think this way! I have to convince, connive, perputrate, penetrate, and basically, sell hogwash to one and all. Now, let's see how many people will go insane over these tidbits." Folks, go outside, get air, rethink about life, and what is most important to you. Then, decide just how much you're gonna spend on antacids, pain relievers, and medical expenses, for stressing out because the next yahoo is waving that piece of chum in your face. Reality check, folks. It aint necessary to go neanderthal on anyone and everyone because of opinion, thoughts, or actions (Save for a terrorist threat that means the end of life, liberty, and the pursuit of the ultimate TUMS for the tummy).

    Vote your mind, vote your gut. Stop thumping on everyone. LIVE LIFE!!!

    January 11, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  14. Joe

    This piece is right on. More so than ever, this presidential race is full of symbolism and subliminal rhetoric. We've become too comfortable as a society with what comes out of our collective mouths. Is it that Black Americans are too sensitive, that whites are too insensitive or a combination of the two? While I tend to believe the later, the fact that so many public faux pas are taking place is hard to ingore. Whether it's the case with Cuomo, referring to Black female basketball players as "nappy headed hoes" or suggesting that Tiger Woods be taken in a dark alley and "lynched" as one commentator recently said, many who have a public platform seem to lose all common sense and sensitivity when they open thier mouths.

    January 11, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Jimenez

    I was turned off by Roland Martin when he said Obama would be the uniter of this country. That was like the biggest joke of all. Martin, Obama, Michelle and Oprah are making this a racist thing. Not the pubilc. It iis true that they are trying to convince the african americans to vote for him because of his color. To make him the first african american president. You don't vote to make him the first of his race you vote to save our country. You vote to pick the candidate that can do that. Hillary Clinton will be on meet the press on Sunday. Watch her. You can't deny she is the one that can lead.

    Fred in VA: Fred, Reston Va January 11, 2008 2:15 pm ET

    To Kyle in South Carolina,

    Did it ever occur to you that some black people like myself actually do not like Obama, and that we are for Hillary for reasons other than Bill? I personally find Obama's comparison to JFK and MLK offensive, because both of them were do-ers not talkers. He tries to attach his ego to their vision of the future, and I for one am not impressed.

    I would challenge you or anyone else to say 3 reasons why they support Obama and not say anything cliche like "fired up" or "change" Fired up to do what? Invade Pakistan? Change to what? Trillion dollar tax increase to pay for socailism? Please. There are many valid reasons to support Clinton over Obama within our black community. Look at the race with colorblind eyes, and no rational person can honestly say Obama is the best person for the job.

    By the way. remember he said drivers liscenses to illegal immigrants in the cnn debate. A 30 second spot run over and over in October will gurantee a loss for Mr Obama my friend.

    Thank you Fred – You make us proud that you are not falling into that race card. Vote for whoever just please not Obama. He is the weakest link in US history.

    January 11, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. Rick

    Give me a break. This is definitely an example of "political correctness gone mad", to use the authors words. The words are supposed to mean "clowning, lying, and pretense". So he should have used those words? White people aren't allowed to use certain words, or else they're racist? This article is a complete load of garbage.

    January 11, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  17. Jason, Berkeley

    One black guy- Martin pitching for another black guy -Obama. What a surprise.
    The comedy of this is that Martin really thinks that he's helping Obama.
    Please Martin, drag him down with you.
    Please take him to that angry-yelling-Jessie Jacskon-circle.

    January 11, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. JT

    The Obama campaign is quickly alienating many people by its constant attempts to percieve racial slights in anyone who speaks against them. Interesting how this was not done until we are coming up on South Carolina a state with many black voters. If the Obama campaign is going to insist that everyone in the democratic party is racist, how can he claim that he is capable of getting elected. If there is racial bias among white northern democrats, then what hope is there in other parts of the country for Obama to get elected. Furthermore, when truly racist propaganda comes from the right and Obama tries to call them on it, the response is already in place. They will simply respond that Obama has no credibility on this issue- he will call anyone who opposes him a racist- even Bill Clinton, the man Toni Morrison called the first black President. When the Chairman of the Obama campaign gets on TV and says Mrs. Clinton cried about her hair, and then tries to invoke Hurricane Katrina 10 times in 30 seconds, it is clear what strategy they have adopted, and why they have adopted it at this time. This will only open the door for attacks in the general election that Obama will now have no leverage to respond back to.

    January 11, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. Nice

    With OBAMA's success, the most qualified candidateII tried so hard to believe that may be, just may be America has improved in race relations but that faith is slipping away.

    January 11, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  20. The Truth, Anywhere, USA

    Ok Eric From Massachusetts,

    Seems like you are the bigot here. Great, you like HRC fine. Vote for her. Stop trying to make people believe that YOU have better credentials then Obama. Please. You sir are a joke. I don't know you and don't care to but you cannot come close to Obama. With that said, you should also stop trying to divide people like your candidate HRC. Stop telling people to vote republican if obama wins. Does that do any good for the Democratic party? Does that do any good for those of us who believe change does not come from the either of the Republican candidates? I know this is a time when we have to choose sides as far as democrats go. But, don't ever think that by voting for Mcain or Romney that you are delivering a blow to Barak Obama. That will be your stupid mistake. They could care less about the majority of people in this country except for their own rich and spoiled base. That would hurt the nation even more. Its one thing to get behind your person but its another to be devisive like you are. I would hope in you so called brain that you would have enough sense to understand that whoever gets the Democratic nomination, it is our duty as Democrats and independents and some dissatisfied republicans to get behind our parties nominee whether it be Clinton or Obama. I have said in the past that if HRC won I would vote republican. But that was out of anger and pure dislike for Hillary. Do I mean it? Heck no. What I do know is that whom ever the nominee is, we have to get behind them 100% if we are to undue what the Bush administration has done over the past years. The problem with the Democratic party and why we have been beaten the past two elections is that we cannot get along with ourselves. The Democratic party is so divided like it was when Bush won, that they will probably win again if we don't wake up and see the writing on the wall. I expect true patriots of this country to get behind Obama when he wins or Hillary if she wins. Point blank. So stop with all the ignorant statements.

    For those intellegent people who support HRC, I wish your candidate well. If she wins, I will be behind her 100% as I expect everyone else to be if Obama wins. Please, ignorance is a disease.

    January 11, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  21. alan browning

    If the shoe fits – wear it.

    January 11, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. Fred, Reston Va

    To anna for Long Island,

    What kind of racist comment is that? The only thing you see from me is letters typed on a computer. How in the world can you determine my race or anyone else's? Are you saying that because I can type english properly, and am not automatically voting for Obama I must be white? As one of the very few black republican females, in Long Island of all places, I would think you would be more sensitive to racial departmentalization.

    By the way. Why would anybody pose as a different race on a politcal blog? Get a life. I can see why you "hate all liberals" You are crazy.

    Cnn, stop letting people post racist nonsense. Isn't that why you take time to "moderate" comments?

    January 11, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. Heather

    Just to give you my back ground, I'm a 24yr old white female college student.

    I"ve never heard of the pharse "Shucking and Jiving" before and I had no idea that it was even remotely racist until I continued to read this article. Given that information, I can't really comment on that particular phrase, but I can comment on the "lazy" comment.

    I tend to use many adjectives (including lazy) for many different people regardless of race. Not too long ago, someone mentioned to me that I should be more aware of stereotypes when I apply different adjectives. Their point was that by calling someone who is black "lazy" as Rove did, it propogates that stereotype which can lead to propogating racism. And I see their point. And I tried to be more aware of the things I said and who I said them about.
    BUT!! in doing so, I experienced another concept. By stopping to think about every adjective, (even common ones such as lazy, poor, ghetto, supersmart, playboy, which can apply to anyone regarless of race) and by specifically noticing the person's race, it made me even more of the differences between us. I wouldn't think twice about calling a white person lazy but now I have to come up with another adjective if that person is a minority. If I have to walk on eggshells all day, and conciously change the way I speak around different ethnic groups aren't I NOT TREATING THEM LIKE EQUALS? And by not treating them like equals aren't I propogating racism?

    I guess the easiest solution would be to not talk about other people... but, I'm not sure that's possible in this day and age.

    January 11, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  24. Debbie

    These comments and those like the ones uttered about lynching Tiger Woods are just a reminder that while racism does not exist overtly among some people it is still deep within the subconscious. It is not mistake when those words are used, even if the utter doesn't fully comprehend why he chose them. Political correctness has run amuck, but I don't think it hurts any of us to stop for a moment and consider why phrases like these continue to be uttered and what it means about our collective subconscious as a nation.

    January 11, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  25. DEE , Canada

    If elected President, an entire world of fools, racists and bigots will hardly care if they cause indignation and outrage with their words, so Obama better learn to grow a much thicker skin. Is it fair? No. But politics and life rarely are. Being over-sensitive in this area will cause people to walk around him on eggshells and be afraid to speak, lest they say inadvertantly say something 'offensive'....and that will make him unapproachable, which translates to un-electable. Obama himself didn't complain...the media did, but it is the same thing...people will be nervous to speak to him lest the media attack them. Does he like his coffee black? I would be afraid to ask!

    January 11, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
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