July 15, 2009

Sotomayor Confirmation: On the Backs of White Heroes

New Haven, Connecticut, firefighters (L) file into the hearing room as US Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor (R-back to camera) greets wellwishers on July 15, 2009 before the third day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. One ruling likely to draw scrutiny from the US Senate Judiciary Committee tasked with vetting Sortomayor is an affirmative action case in which a mostly-white group of the firefighters alleged discrimination. The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the white firefighters, overturning Sotomayor's decision.      AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images),

Talk about visual wedge tactics.

Take a look at this line of New Haven firefighters filing into the Sotomayor confirmation hearings this morning. (If you don’t know the backstory, the Supremes recently overturned Sotomayor’s New Haven decision, the court asserting white firefighters, led by the litigious Frank Ricci, were unfairly treated by the tossing out of a promotion exam minority test-takers did comparatively worse on.)

With the glow firefighters continue to carry from 9/11, this line of primarily white “first responders” makes for a vivid non-verbal argument that Sonia is stepping up to the high court on the backs of these white heroes. And then, the message is reinforced, if just by chance, with the further scene of Sotomayor talking to a group of black servicemen who form a wall between her and the New Haven contingent.

Notice, by the way, that Ricci himself remains tucked in the background. (He’s against the wall just to the left of what looks like the red-haired guy.)

(image: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images. July 15, 2009, Senate Judiciary Committee. Capitol Hill. Washington, DC. )

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Michael Shaw
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