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"shucked & jived" offensive?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by nutgraph, May 15, 2007.

  1. nutgraph

    nutgraph New Member

    what do you think? i’m sure the writer didn’t intend to offend the african-american community, but i can’t believe it got through the desk.

    The much-hyped, megamillion-dollar boxing match May 5 between champion Oscar De La Hoya and undefeated challenger Floyd Mayweather Jr. prompted Sacramento Bee sportswriter Paul Gutierrez to write, "In essence, Mayweather boxed his style — he shucked and jived and danced and threw counterpunches with aplomb." Bee public editor Armando Acuna (former sports editor) said several black readers complained. "The phrase 'shucked and jived' is a racial slur, some said. It is slang and traces its roots to American slaves being deceitful, evasive and falsely sincere," Acuna wrote Monday, "I think their objections are valid."

    The Public Editor: POW! Readers KO word choice in fight coverage
    By Armando Acuna -
    Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, May 13, 2007

    Last weekend's big fight to save boxing, the much-hyped, megamillion-dollar duel between champion Oscar De La Hoya and undefeated challenger Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the bright lights of Las Vegas, turned out instead to be the Big Bore.

    Part of the anticipation and expectation was that the fleet-of-foot and hard-to-hit Mayweather would live up to his months-long pre-fight bombast and slug it out with the bigger and slower De La Hoya.

    He didn't, resorting instead to his typical hit-and-run style, which was great for piling up points and winning a split decision, but a killer for the drama of a great championship bout that would help the dying sport.

    Mayweather's switch was fodder for a caustic and stinging analysis by Bee sportswriter Paul Gutierrez, one of two reporters from the paper covering the fight.

    That was OK.

    A particular choice of words he used to describe Mayweather, however, was not:

    "In essence, Mayweather boxed his style - he shucked and jived and danced and threw counterpunches with aplomb."

    When I first read the sentence, it did not give me pause nor did I find it offensive. I thought it was simply a cliché.

    However, several black readers complained, some vehemently, and I think their objections are valid.

    The phrase "shucked and jived" is a racial slur, some said. It is slang and traces its roots to American slaves being deceitful, evasive and falsely sincere.

    Dictionary definitions are few. The Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary defines "shucking and jiving" as "misleading or deceptive talk or behavior, as to give a false impression."

    "This is offensive to blacks, and I'm personally offended," said Edward Jefferson, a 58-year-old black man and Sacramento resident who is a performing and visual artist as well as a political activist.

    "It's the equivalent," Jefferson said, "of saying (the N-word)."

    Johnnie Brown of Elk Grove was one of several readers who contacted Gutierrez.

    "Sports journalism requires facts to be presented to the reader without racial bias, but your article in Sunday's Sac Bee was the complete opposite," Brown said in his e-mail. "Instead of an informative article, it seemed as if I was reading hate mail addressed to black athletes."

    Adding venom to the readers' criticism were the Latino vs. black overtones that were part of the fight's promotion. It was the subject of a Sports story by Gutierrez the day before the fight.

    "In no other championship fight in recent memory has the race card been played so brilliantly, yet so subtly," he wrote.

    Some accused Gutierrez of chastising Mayweather because "your boy," De La Hoya, lost.

    Gutierrez said he never intended to offend anyone.

    "Honestly, if there was one thing I could change, it would be that term. I wasn't aware of the origins of it," Gutierrez said.

    "I do understand how it can be misconstrued and offend people, and I apologize for that."

    Gutierrez emphasized he was describing Mayweather's fighting style, contrasting it to the pre-fight hype that had Mayweather promising an action-packed bout where he would take the fight to De La Hoya, even be "willing to die in the ring."

    Writing under the rubric "On Boxing," a hybrid article that allows a reporter to write with the license of a columnist, the topic was certainly fair game.

    "I have no problem disparaging Mayweather for the way he fought," said Tom Negrete, assistant managing editor for sports and business, and Gutierrez's boss. "I do have a problem that we offended people."

    Negrete said, "I view this as a learning experience for the writers and editors here."

    Negrete and executive editor Rick Rodriguez said another downside is the offensive words become the focus and not the story.

    "I wish we hadn't used those words," Rodriguez said. "I think editors have to be sensitive and ask questions ... (is this) an example of hot-button stereotyping that people might not do intentionally but which has the potential to offend?"

    Gutierrez, a veteran who has covered many sports including boxing, said criticism that he laid into Mayweather because De La Hoya lost is flat out wrong.

    "Some of the stuff I got said I was a Mexican racist and that I was just mad because De La Hoya lost," he said disbelievingly. "I don't have a hidden agenda."

    I spoke via phone to Gutierrez, who was at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City with the Oakland A's Milton Bradley doing work for an upcoming story on how the outfielder has embraced black ballplayers from the past. (You can't make up this stuff.)

    The Bee has used the phrase "shuck and jive" at least three other times in recent years, though not directed at a single person.

    A few weeks ago, a front-page story about declining hip-hop sales quoted a rapper using the term to denigrate rap's critics.

    Back in 2005, a story about the Oakland Raiders dealing with the salary cap used the phrase, and in 2003, a story about a local golf course used the words to describe work by a maintenance crew.

    Gutierrez said he spoke with some black colleagues and they weren't offended by the phrase given its context.

    In contrast, I spoke with a black colleague who was offended.

    I wonder whether there is a difference between older and younger people in finding the words offensive, and to what degree, because readers who contacted me and Gutierrez appear to be older.

    The term is used on the Internet in many contexts, from politics to sports to entertainment to food. And some online sites devoted to boxing, such as maxboxing.com, have used the words to describe Mayweather in previous fights.

    What do you think? Let me know at Public Editor, and I will post your comments.
  2. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    Absolutely, the writer of this mean-spirited diatribe should be fired......
  3. I used to cover a black basketball coach who used the phrase all the time - at least three or four times an interview.

    I just thought it was urban slang.
  4. Rufino

    Rufino Active Member

    Give me a break. It's potentially an insensitive term. I understand the decision to explain/apologize for it. Quoting a guy saying nonsense like this makes it clear we're dealing with someone who's way too into being "personally offended", though.
  5. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    I've said it before and I still stand by it and every one of these threads just confirms it -- we have become a nation of fucking whiners and babies.

    Or as booritz would say "this is further evidence of the wussification of America...."
  6. dcdream

    dcdream Member

    I know Paul. I am black. I am not offended by the phrase. In fact, if people were mad at that, then they should have been protesting Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday when he said Steaming Willie Beamon, played by a one Jamie Foxx, that he was "shucking and jiving and wheeling and dealing, he's steaming Willie Beamon.
  7. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    If you know him -- just out of curiosity -- what is his nationality? Just wondering because Guttierrez sounds some form of Hispanic, which makes this "outrage" from readers seem even more silly.
  8. dcdream

    dcdream Member

    He is Hispanic.

  9. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    People do this kind of thing unintentionally. On news-side once they used the term "cakewalk" and they refused to see it as racially offensive until they accepted my challenge of looking it up to see how the word originated. So I don't think the writer ought to be shot at sunrise, but this is what happens when people use words and phrases without considering their origins and when the desk is too overworked or undereducated to catch it. We can't be expected to know the history of every phrase, but the safe thing is to excise cliches, or at least find out where they came from. The readers have a legit gripe and we should say so, but we need not overreact.
  10. Reel E Reel

    Reel E Reel Member

    The imagery of the phrase is equally as offensive as the origin.

    It conjurs Bo Jangles tappin' out a tune in the ring.

    Why not just use "bobbed and weaved"?
  11. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    That is such utter nonsense.

    There are so many words or phrases that may have originated as slurs that we use every day because they no longer hold the same meaning and 95 percent of the population -- if not more -- associates the phrases with something much different.

    Cakewalk is one of them.

    The bottome line is there is a very small percentage of oversensitive whiny people stuck in an era that is thankfully long gone and unfortunately there are just enough politically correct pinheads like the editor in this particular situation who feel the need to appease them as opposed to telling them to stop being such fucking babies.
  12. I used to work with a guy who would want us to take "shines" out of every headline involving a predominantly black team.
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