A lot of people (including me in comments here) have speculated that it seems open expressions of racism are less acceptable in US politics than open expressions of sexism. Some, like Gloria Steinem, have made the poorly argued and, frankly, offensive claim that sexism is obviously a bigger force than racism. Well, it seems even advocates of the milder claim about open expressions of racism are wrong (via Pam Spaulding at Pandagon).
During an appearance yesterday on talk radio — at almost the same time as Obama co-chair Jesse Jackson Jr. questioned Hillary’s tears — New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo used some words with a very troublesome racial history, apparently in reference to Barack Obama.“It’s not a TV crazed race. Frankly you can’t buy your way into it,” Cuomo said, according to Albany Times Union reporter Rick Karlin. He then added, “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.”
So, next time you want to make some big generalisations about the relative force of racism and sexism in US politics based on one case, it might be a good idea to think twice. (At least I put a big ‘so far’ into my comment, but I still shouldn’t have speculated that way.) And Gloria Steinem, you should already have been deeply embarrassed by what you said, but even more so now. New theory: folks will use whatever hateful ideology they’ve got against someone they take to be serious competition.
*For those unfamiliar with “shuck and jive” (from Pandagon):
“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.”
This is very much *not* an expression in ordinary, benign usage today in America, and it immediately conjures up racist connotations.