January 7, 2009

Roland Burris And The Civil Rights Echo


I think Stephen Crowley’s image on the NYT front page of Roland Burris outside the Capitol yesterday is stunning.

I’m not sure what the immediate situation was, but Burris looks thoroughly threatened — even more so, given the body language of the guards who don’t exactly look like they’ve got his back. (Especially bulgy-mouth guy.) The white hand in the foreground is also strange and somewhat ominous, especially as coupled with Burris’s gesture of trepidation.

The orange hood in the distance and the orange piece of umbrella in the foreground only reinforce a sense of solidarity between Burris and the two/three sympathetic-looking black figures near and around him. The association I had — combining the solidarity, the need for protection/escort and the feeling of threat with the fact Burris was appearing outside the Capitol demonstrating his right to be formally admitted — was to the scene outside Little Rock Central High in 1957.

My sense, if unstated, is that the civil rights analogy was also on the minds of the Senators today in loosening resistance to the nomination (as it must have been in the calculations of Blagojevich in nominating Burris).

As a witty and even wicked bit of picture-editing, by the way, check out this photo in yesterday’s NYT Pictures of the Day slideshow. It follows in sequence immediately after a slight variation of the image above. In it, we see “the other” Illinois Senator, Dick Durbin, greeting what one might suppose are a couple of white fat cat supporters in an opening day reception at his office while other people are held back at the door, a painting of Abraham Lincoln over his desk clearing anchoring the right side of the picture.

(image: Stephen Crowley/NYT. Washington. January 6, 2009)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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