Monday, April 30, 2012

Elizabeth Warren Caught in Affirmative Action Game

Cambridge is a city of 105,162 diverse people. On the last census 244 residents reported as American Indian and Alaska Native. One of those Native Americans was outed by Hillary Chabot at the Boston Herald last Friday when she reported that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren had been touted as a minority in the hiring statistics at Harvard Law School.

And why would that be controversial? It raises all sorts of questions. Was she an affirmative action hire who might have been less qualified than other candidates? Was she lying or exaggerating on her resume? Did Harvard hire a white woman who they could count as minority to help make the statistics look better? Did Harvard use her as a shield against criticism of its hiring policies? Where does the politically correct story end and the real Elizabeth Warren begin?

We can expect that Elizabeth Warren is working now on putting together the story of the heritage of her maternal grandparents having Cherokee and Delaware blood, while the Monday morning discounters of family lore say they've researched back to her great-grandparents without finding anything but lily-white blood. I guess that leaves her as a sort of affirmative action half-breed, accepted neither by the tribe nor by whites:

Christopher Child, a genealogist at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, puts Warren in good company:

"Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama claim to have Native American heritage, but we were never able to find evidence of that, and in both cases we traced their ancestry fairly thoroughly."
Why would high-ranking Democrats make such claims? Among the American left, minority heritage confers an aristotratic status, and there is no higher status than Native American. As the original inhabitants of the continent they have the prior claim to dispossession, trumping even enslavement of African-Americans. Never mind that Southern tribes, like Elizabeth Warren's Cherokee, came to own slaves.

For example, when affirmative action quota queen Lani Guinier (Jewish-African-American) was granted tenure at Harvard Law School in 1998, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper was quick to snark that Elizabeth Warren had been the first woman with a minority background to be so tenured.

Update: The Herald reports that the Warren campaign has dug up an ancestor, Elizabeth's great-great-great-grandmother O.C. Sarah Smith, who was listed as Cherokee on her marriage certificate. That makes Elizabeth at best 1/32 Cherokee. Margery Eagan counts coup:
"I just can’t shake the ridiculous image of you, Liz — a blue-eyed blonde almost as pasty white as me — letting yourself be described as a minority professor, a Native American, for years."

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