As a rule, I make a deliberate and conscious effort to ignore the former half-term governor of Alaska. But once in a great while, attention must be paid.
Like many conservative pundits, Sarah Palin is criticizing President Obama for his administration’s inconsistent statements on the Benghazi, Libya, attack. Unlike many conservative pundits, Palin used the term “shuck and jive” to describe Obama’s behavior.
In a Facebook post today, Palin wrote: “Obama’s Shuck and Jive Ends With Benghazi Lies.” She also used the term in the text of the post, which concludes, “President Obama’s shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end.”
Let’s put aside, at least for now, the fact that the latest Benghazi revelations appear to be entirely uninteresting, and even the most unhinged White House critics are yet to document any administration “lies” associated with last month’s attack.
Let’s instead ponder a fairly straightforward, two-part question: “Shuck and jive”? Seriously?
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.”
As Jeffrey Goldberg concluded, Palin’s choice of words “isn’t an example of a racist dog-whistle because it’s too obviously racist to be considered code.”