July 24, 2008, - 11:47 am

‘Notha Phrase You Can’t Say on ESPN: “Shuckin’ and Jivin'”–Is It Racist?

By Debbie Schlussel
First of all, the most offensive thing about Justin Timberlake using the phrase “shuckin’ and jivin'” on ESPN’s always boring ESPY Awards Show is that Timberlake even has a contract with ESPN (and that he was given full hosting duties). Whas’ up wi’ dat?
Second, ESPN edited out the part in which Timberlake used the phrase “shuckin’ and jivin’,” saying it’s offensive to Black people and has a history of being associated with slavery.
But that’s not correct. While it’s incorrectly believed that “shuckin’ and jivin'” was used to describe Black slaves as lazy and fooling around instead of working (and presumably, “shuckin'” corn), in fact the phrase dates back to the late 1800s and was a phrase American Blacks, back then, used to describe clowning around:


Justin Timberlake “Shucks and Jives” @ the Espys, Gets Edited Out

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.'”

When Andrew Cuomo used it to describe Barack Obama BS’ing at a debate with Hillary Clinton, in that context it was probably meant as a racist dig. But just ‘cuz Clintonistas used it that way, doesn’t mean the phrase is inherently bigoted.
But here’s how dude-who-thinks-he’s-a-brothah-from-a-White-motha Timberlake used it:

The easiest edit that ESPN made during Sunday’s tape-delayed ESPYs came fairly early in the broadcast when Justin Timberlake was teasing Paul Pierce about his “injured” knee in Game 1 of the NBA Finals during his opening monologue. In describing how Pierce quickly came back after being taken off on a wheelchair, Timberlake joked that Pierce was back on the court, “shucking and jiving.” The comment, which was cut out of the broadcast that aired Sunday night, was met with silence from the crowd.

I wonder if most of that crowd even knew what the very old school–we’re talking ancient–phrase meant. Most of the ESPY audience doesn’t even know who George Washington was. Just ask Voshon Lenard.
Is this another case of non-Blacks not being allowed to use Black vernacular? If that’s the case, why does Oprah get to not only use the Yiddishism “Shlumpedinka,” but also claim she invented it?
And what do you do with a White guy–like Timberlake–who thinks he’s Black?
I never knew that there were objections to the term, “shuckin’ and jivin’,” as I always thought it referred to phonies and clowns. My late father once used an incarnation of it, “shuckLin’ and Jivin'” to describe one of our fellow co-religionists who was ultra-religious and wore their religion on his sleeve, but whom we knew not to be good person. In Judaism, “Shuckling” means shaking back and forth in prayer. Does that mean that my father was a racist? Puh-leeze. The phrase simply isn’t a racist phrase. What the heck do you think “jivin'” means? It means faking, talking BS, lying. “Shuckin'”–now maybe, that’s another thing, with the corn reference.
Still, are we now going to tell Golden Oldie radio stations to stop playing the ’70s BeeGees hit, “Jive Talkin'”? Do I have to take it off my Zune, or I’m a racist? Do we have to contact all producers of the BeeGees Greatest Hits CDs that they must censor it out and that the Brothers Gibb’s kids, especially the dead twin’s kids, will have to miss out on all those “racist” royalties?
And then there’s the issue of what ESPN did? If they really think that Justin Timberlake uttered a “racist” phrase, why did they edit it out, the way “The Tonight Show,” last year, edited out Halle Berry’s jokes about Jewish people’s noses?
Why do these left-wing, hip-hop celebs get protection from ESPN and NBC, but not Rush Limbaugh, who was forced to resign from ESPN for making the perfectly legitimate point that Donovan McNabb was a mediocre NFL quarterback, who enjoyed affirmative action positive press coverage merely because of his race? Why didn’t ESPN “edit” his comments out and protect him?
Because Rush is a conservative. And because we’ve become way too sensitive to every utterance in America?
And that ain’t no jive, bro. Or shuckin’ and jivin’.
To my very reasonable Black readers, do you really think that the use of the phrase “shuckin’ and jivin'” is racist? Why?

5 Responses

ESPN is the CNN of sports, meaning they’ve always had a left wing bias. Too bad Fox Sports can’t knock them off the throne like Fox News did to CNN.
Was “Hand Jive” from Grease racist, too?
Great point about Rush on ESPN. I think they didn’t protect Rush, firstly, because the on air libs didn’t want him in the first place. Second and most importantly, the media doesn’t like it when their hypocrisy is thrown back at them.
You could tell the out and out glee Tom Jackson and others had getting on the air the next day and week and displaying their high and mighty righteous anger.
What’s even odd was I heard Troy Aikman make the same observation Rush made about McNabb’s lack of accuracy on CBS football games long before Rush said it.

Jeff_W on July 24, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Oh Debbie – if you had been in Dallas sayin’ that, the race hustlers would have you apologize. The things a white person can’t say around a minority just keeps growing longer. And little of it has to do with obviously racist and bigoted language.

NormanF on July 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm

As we all know, it’s a derogatory term, stemming all the way back to the days of “minstrel shows.” (Seeing blacks in demeaning roles: clowning, wearing black face with red lips and chowing down on watermelon; always saying “Yessir, whatever you wan me to do, Bows”………….Jimmy Walker, and to an extent, Bojangles, are examples, even though Bojangles didn’t have a choice back in those days; it was the 30’s and the 40’s, a time where blacks had no choice but to take demeaning roles).
By Justin Timberlake using “shuckin’ and jivin” it was like he was ressurecting old negative stereotypes. Stereotypes that Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Dick Gregory, Harry Belefonte, Sidney Poitier, Lloyd Richards, Roscoe Lee Borne, Esther Rolle, Adolf Caeser, Bill Cosby and countless others were trying to fight against.
And that was just to fight the negative images that came out of Hollywood.
But Justin Timberlake is not totally blameless. We still have black people who are still “shuckin’ and jivin” today:
Al Sharpton
Jesse Jackson (he pushed for The Laugh Factory to fine comics who use the N word after the Michael Richards incident, but then he turns around and uses it towards Obama. Sounds like HE should be fined from The Laugh Factory for using the word that he pushed for to be banned)
Lil’ Wayne
Yung Berg
Rick Ross
Flava Flav
Steve Harvey
and countless others!!
Us black people get angry when white people use the term, but there are still some in the black community who ARE “shukin and jivin.”
I never use the N word, and growing up, it was NEVER allowed in my house. And my friends weren’t allowed to say that word around me, whether they were black or white.
I’ll end this with a quote from John Singleton, the director of “Boyz N the Hood”
“Anger is an emotion that if you carry around for a long period of time, it does not allow you to live.”

IceCold06 on July 24, 2008 at 2:53 pm

To the PC nitwits running around today, the derivations and root meanings of words mean nothing. After all, “niggardly” is still regarded by the PC as an expression of contempt. If there is the least chance that any possible meaning of a word is considered racially offensive, it must be cleansed. This shows the brittleness of PC constructions. The least dent in them could start an avalanche. Once the process of accepting alternative meanings for ‘racially offensive’ words starts, the whole thing could be dismantled. Just like totalitarian societies — they can’t give an inch.

c f on July 24, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Somebody called a radio show the other day and complained that accusing Obama of ‘tap-dancing’ around an issue was racist, lol. Give me a break. And what about playing spoons, blowing on a jug, or ‘dancing a jig’? Nobody ever had a fit over Hee-Haw or the Beverly Hillbillies, either. And I never got, what was so racist about Al Jolson? It’s just another old form of artistic expression.

John Harper on July 27, 2008 at 2:19 pm

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