Senator Elizabeth Warren, perhaps in preparation of a run for the White House in 2020, has launched a campaign this week to address the years-long controversy over her past claims to a Native American heritage.
She released a campaign style video (see below), as well as the results of DNA testing which shows “she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations.”
This would make Warren something like 1/32 to 1/1,204 Native American.
That’s, uh, vindication?
The criticism of Warren over this matter has focused on her claim, as someone who is ostensibly a white woman, to be a racial minority. As the Boston Globe reported back in January:
Warren also listed herself as a minority in a legal directory published by the Association of American Law Schools from 1986 to 1995. She’s never provided a clear answer on why she stopped self-identifying.
She was also listed as a Native American in federal forms filed by the law schools at Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania where she worked.
And in 1996, as Harvard Law School was being criticized for lacking diversity, a spokesman for the law school told the Harvard Crimson that Warren was Native American.
Warren has claimed that her claims of Native American heritage never boosted her academic career, but given the facts above does anyone really believe that?
We can have a debate over the efficacy of racial preference policies in academia and beyond, but the good intentions behind them are rooted in the idea that people of certain demographics need a leg up to overcome injustices both present and historic.
To believe that Elizabeth Warren was right to lay claim to that sort of a heritage is to believe that she suffered some indignities, some setbacks in her life and career, because the world around her knew she was 1/32 – 1/1,024 Native American.
That’s ridiculous. Our Native American friends and neighbors live, daily, with the realities stemming from our nation’s cruel treatment of them in the distant and not so distant past. To have someone like Warren insert herself into that as an exercise in careerism is as insulting as it is pathetic.
“And the claim of distant Native ancestry doesn’t quite mesh with the stories Warren has been telling for years, that her parents eloped because her paternal grandparents didn’t want her father to marry her mother ‘because she is part Cherokee and part Delaware,'” Jim Geraghty notes. “Under the rules of the Cherokee Nation, Warren is unlikely to qualify as Native.”
Warren was no doubt hoping to put this issue to bed, but I feel like she made it worse. She’s now trying to hang her hat on a very tenuous connection to Native American ancestry, and it’s the sort of thing that ought to be laughed at.