One after another, nearly 150 white firefighters approached a lectern facing a federal judge and, voices sometimes trembling with anger, decried what they called a perversion of justice. Years of hard work to make it into the ranks of the department were being tossed aside to make way for unqualified minority candidates, they said, all in a questionable effort to end discrimination.
The target of their wrath sat silently before them: Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, whose expansive rulings have forced the New York Fire Department — “a stubborn bastion of white male privilege,” in his words — to overhaul its practices to hire more minority candidates.
One fireman, Sean Fitzgerald, bluntly accused the judge of playing a “social experiment” and questioned whether he was driven by “socioeconomic problems, personal ambition or inner guilt.”
The remarkable demonstration of opposition, which played out over four days in federal court last week, underscored the degree to which Judge Garaufis has emerged as the most prominent and provocative figure in New York City’s most contentious integration battle in decades. Critics have dubbed him “Emperor Garaufis” and have accused him of being a publicity-seeking liberal crusader whose imposition of racial quotas has jeopardized public safety. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has called for his removal from the case.
But the case has also highlighted the evolution of his thinking on the government’s role in helping minorities. A product of the machine-driven world of Queens politics, he fiercely opposed federally mandated integration efforts as a young school board member from a mostly white district in the 1970s. Decades later, he pulled aside a black colleague on the federal bench and asked him searchingly, “How does it feel to be a black person in society?”
And then Judge Garaufis asked his black colleague, "May I touch your hair?"
“How does it feel to be a black person in society?” As opposed to ... what? ... A black person living with a family of wolves in the wilderness?
Seriously, judging by the quality of analysis in his Vulcan Society decision, Garaufis appears to be an innumerate dolt (here's my 2009 analysis of his decision). But who cares about that when the New York Times only cares about Who? Whom? and Whose side are you on?