Sarah Palin is once again drawing ire for her words, this time aimed at a post she made on Facebook about President Obama and the way the White House handled the Libya attacks.
Using an antiquated term with a racially charged history, Palin accused Obama of doing a “shuck and jive” on the American people regarding what she called “these Benghazi lies”. Her post immediately drew fire from the Democrats, who pointed out that the term was racist; the Republicans, however, were quick to her defense, pointing out that White House press secretary Jay Carney used the same term last year during a briefing. However, he was talking about himself–a white man–when he said it, something Palin’s detractors are quick to point out.
Palin later took to Facebook in her own defense, saying that there is nothing racist about the terms she used. According to UrbanDictionary.com, however, it does have ties to the days of slavery.
To shuck and jive” originally referred to the intentionally misleading words and actions that African-Americans would employ in order to deceive racist Euro-Americans in power, both during the period of slavery and afterwards. The expression was documented as being in wide usage in the 1920s, but may have originated much earlier.
“Shucking and jiving” was a tactic of both survival and resistance. A slave, for instance, could say eagerly, “Oh, yes, Master,” and have no real intention to obey. Or an African-American man could pretend to be working hard at a task he was ordered to do, but might put up this pretense only when under observation. Both would be instances of “doin’ the old shuck ‘n jive.”
The Atlantic Wire also did some digging around as to the origin of the phrase, and found text in Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking which also attributes it to racial slang.
“The origin of ‘shuckin’ and jivin” according to Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking, published in 1989, is in shucking corn, and refers to using words and performance to decieve and manipulate. Some sources say it started in the slavery days, others say it’s from jazz in the 1930s. But all say it started as black slang.”
In Palin’s words:
For the record, there was nothing remotely racist in my use of the phrase “shuck and jive” – a phrase which many people have used, including Chris Matthews, Andrew Cuomo, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to name a few off the top of my head. In fact, Andrew Cuomo also used the phrase in reference to Barack Obama, and the fact that Mr. Cuomo and I used the phrase in relation to President Obama signifies nothing out of the ordinary. I would have used the exact same expression if I had been writing about President Carter, whose foreign policy rivaled Obama’s in its ineptitude, or about the Nixon administration, which was also famously rocked by a cover-up.
I’ve been known to use the phrase most often when chastising my daughter Piper to stop procrastinating and do her homework. As she is part Yup’ik Eskimo, I’m not sure if this term would be deemed offensive when it’s directed at her or if it would be considered benign as in the case of Chris Matthews’ use of it in reference to Rachel Maddow. Just to be careful, from now on I’ll avoid using it with Piper, and I would appreciate it if the media refrained from using words and phrases like igloo, Eskimo Pie, and “when hell freezes over,” as they might be considered offensive by my extended Alaska Native family.
The outrageously outraged reaction to this expression from perennial hypocrites like Chris Matthews has only made me laugh. Mr. Matthews, let me share with you my favorite Irish toast: “May we always be happy, and may our enemies always know it.”
– Sarah Palin