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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)

  • Stephen C. Rose

    I did not find this stunning. I found it worthy of condemnation and my first impulse when I saw it this morning was to lash out at the Times for portraying a man who has carried himself well as a vulnerable victim. It disgusted me.

  • Optix Man

    Please please please give us some commentary on this photo op.

  • bystander

    Our Senate is sooooo very stupid. Nearly from top to bottom, and side to side, they are more concerned with their appearances than with governance. Welcome to the Senate, Mr. Burris, the greatest deliberative body on earth. I hope this photo isn’t indicative of the year to come, but I have a bad feeling about it.

  • JM

    I agree with Stephen C. Rose. To me it looks like that white hand is reaching out to Burris, to rescue him from Bulgy and his cronies. Burris seems to be reaching tentatively to the hand, afraid but desperate for help. Very strange image.
    Whaddaya think Bulgy’s got in there? Nuts for the winter? Jelly donut is my guess, but I suppose it could be an entire Egg McMuffin.

  • richard dent

    Burris didn’t get a very flattering pose on today’s USA Today cover. Must be that “taint” from Blago.

  • Molly

    Burris’ posture and expression lend credence to the claim that he is out of his league. He looks like he is lost and someone has called to him to help. I can’t help but think of an excursion of senior citizens one of whom got into some stressful situation and needed a hand out of it.
    I think the caption with the photo makes up for the visual. It seems to be trying to take up for the man who looks like he really needs assistance.

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