Harvard’s Cherokee professor

George Will sums up how Elizabeth Warren and her Ivy League universities played the diversity game:

Blond, blue-eyed Elizabeth Warren, the Senate candidate in Massachusetts and Harvard professor who cites “family lore” that she is 1/32nd Cherokee, was inducted into Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame last year. Her biography on OklahomaHeritage.com says that she “can track both sides of her family in Oklahoma long before statehood” (1907) and “she proudly tells everyone she encounters that she is ‘an Okie to my toes.’ ” It does not mention any Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother. A DVD of the induction ceremony shows that neither Warren nor anyone else mentioned this.

The kerfuffle that has earned Warren such sobriquets as “Spouting Bull” and “Fauxcahontas” began with reports that Harvard Law School, in routine academic preening about diversity (in everything but thought), listed her as a minority faculty member, as did the University of Pennsylvania when she taught there. She said that some in her family had “high cheekbones like all of the Indians do.” The New England Historic Genealogical Society said that a document confirmed the family lore of Warren’s Cherokee ancestry, but it later backtracked. She has said that she did not know Harvard was listing her as a minority in the 1990s, but Harvard was echoing her: From 1986 through 1995, starting before she came to Harvard, a directory published by the Association of American Law Schools listed her as a minority and says its listings are based on professors claiming minority status.

So, although no evidence has been found that Warren is part Indian, for years two universities listed her as such. She has identified herself as a minority, as when, signing her name “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee,” she submitted a crab recipe (Oklahoma crabs?) to a supposedly Indian cookbook. This is a political problem.

A poll taken before this controversy found her Republican opponent Scott Brown trouncing her on “likability,” 57 percent to 23 percent. Even Democrats broke for Brown 40 to 38. Now she is a comic figure associated with laughable racial preferences. She who wants Wall Street “held accountable” is accountable for two elite law schools advertising her minority status. She who accuses Wall Street of gaming the financial system at least collaborated with, and perhaps benefited from, the often absurd obsession with “diversity.”

How absurd? Warren says that for almost a decade she listed herself in the AALS directory as a Native American because she hoped to “meet others like me.” This well-educated, highly paid, much-honored (she was a consumer protection adviser to President Obama) member of America’s upper 1 percent went looking for people “who are like I am” among Native Americans?

This makes perfect sense to a liberal subscriber to the central superstition of the diversity industry, which is the premise of identity politics: Personhood is distilled not to the content of character but only to race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.

This controversy has discombobulated liberalism’s crusade to restore Democratic possession of the Senate seat the party won in 1952 with John Kennedy and held until 2010, when Brown captured it after Ted Kennedy’s death. Lofty thinkers and exasperated liberals consider the focus on Warren’s fanciful ancestry a distraction from serious stuff. (Such as The Post’s nearly 5,500-word wallow in teenage Mitt Romney’s prep school comportment?) But Warren’s adult dabbling in identity politics is pertinent because it is, in all its silliness, applied liberalism.

via Elizabeth Warren’s identity politics – The Washington Post.

As an Oklahoman and an academic, I have something to say on the matter.  First, in Oklahoma, home of the Five “civilized”–that is, fully assimilated to white culture–there are lots of blonde blue-eyed “Indians.”  When white people moved into Indian Territory, they could marry into the tribes.  After the civil war, the freed slaves of the tribes from the South were also entered into tribal rolls, so there are also lots of black Indians.  It only takes 1/32 Indian heritage to get listed.

It’s also true that quite a few Oklahomans have gamed the system designed for unassimilated tribes on reservations.  I once taught at a school in Oklahoma that took a survey of racial identity to qualify for federal benefits to institutions that served minority populations.  Our school cashed in because of all of the red-haired Cherokees, even though we had few black people or other minorities.  Then there are the things you can do on “Indian lands,” such as running casinos, selling tax-free cigarettes, getting free health care, and other benefits.  (I hasten to say that there are also “real Indians” in Oklahoma with various levels of poverty and other problems.  I’m just saying that some who don’t need these programs have taken advantage of them at the expense of those who do.)

It’s also true that academics got on the diversity bandwagon, especially a few years ago, and that the claim to be a “minority” was a priceless commodity.  This encouraged bogus claims.

Prof. Warren might have qualified to get into a tribe, if she could prove even that small amount of Indian blood she is claiming, but she never shows up on the Cherokee tribal rolls, so her claim is bogus by any standards.  And it’s just embarrassing to see how the Ivy League institutions, supposedly so enlightened, were hyping Prof. Warren as a demonstration of their diversity, as if she were a member of an oppressed people-group.

Unless Okies are members of an oppressed people group.  One could make that case.  If so, I claim my identity and demand justice!

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Dan Kempin

    Part of me suspects that you just chose this story in order to include the names “Spouting Bull” and “Fauxcahontas.” If that is the case, I have only one thing to say:

    Worth it.

  • Dan Kempin

    Part of me suspects that you just chose this story in order to include the names “Spouting Bull” and “Fauxcahontas.” If that is the case, I have only one thing to say:

    Worth it.

  • DonS

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King

    I guess that dream didn’t work out so well. In lefty land we are more about the externals than ever. Although, apparently, it’s more about what you say the color of your skin is than the actuality. To bring that full circle, I guess it is ultimately about character.

    My kids are twice as Native American as she claims to be, 1/16 Apache, and I wouldn’t dream of encouraging them to trade on that fact. Whatever happened to that great line from “Saving Private Ryan” — “Earn it!”

  • DonS

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King

    I guess that dream didn’t work out so well. In lefty land we are more about the externals than ever. Although, apparently, it’s more about what you say the color of your skin is than the actuality. To bring that full circle, I guess it is ultimately about character.

    My kids are twice as Native American as she claims to be, 1/16 Apache, and I wouldn’t dream of encouraging them to trade on that fact. Whatever happened to that great line from “Saving Private Ryan” — “Earn it!”

  • Jon

    DonS, you quoting King is a bit like Mr. Scratch quoting Scripture – it’s not done to enlighten the hearer. You must read all of King’s “Dream” speech – his call for economic and social justice (the basis of a colorblind society) will do you good – or drive you to an apopleptic rage.

  • Jon

    DonS, you quoting King is a bit like Mr. Scratch quoting Scripture – it’s not done to enlighten the hearer. You must read all of King’s “Dream” speech – his call for economic and social justice (the basis of a colorblind society) will do you good – or drive you to an apopleptic rage.

  • DonS

    Jon @ 3: Well, that was “judgey”. Exactly how do you know I didn’t quote King to enlighten the hearer? Apparently, if someone disagrees with you, their thoughts and opinions are simply invalid. Is that the American way, my man, or can we for once have an intelligent conversation not filled with personal invective and ad hominem attacks?

    King, unlike you, understood that economic and social justice arise from an equal opportunity, and hard work to take advantage of that opportunity. He would have been aghast to see what has happened to the civil rights movement — how a white woman feels like she has to dredge up some phony minority claim to have a fair chance of advancement, and how many in the minority community no longer simply seek an opportunity, but reparations and unearned advancement. The politics of envy are destroying the fabric of our society, and our work ethic.

    The funny thing is that almost all of us have a claim to minority status at least as strong as Ms. Warren’s — we are so intermingled at this point that we all have minority extraction. This is a good thing — an equalizer that would allow our society to move ahead fairly and justly, if not for the refusal of some to give up the life they’ve had because of the politics of envy and division.

  • DonS

    Jon @ 3: Well, that was “judgey”. Exactly how do you know I didn’t quote King to enlighten the hearer? Apparently, if someone disagrees with you, their thoughts and opinions are simply invalid. Is that the American way, my man, or can we for once have an intelligent conversation not filled with personal invective and ad hominem attacks?

    King, unlike you, understood that economic and social justice arise from an equal opportunity, and hard work to take advantage of that opportunity. He would have been aghast to see what has happened to the civil rights movement — how a white woman feels like she has to dredge up some phony minority claim to have a fair chance of advancement, and how many in the minority community no longer simply seek an opportunity, but reparations and unearned advancement. The politics of envy are destroying the fabric of our society, and our work ethic.

    The funny thing is that almost all of us have a claim to minority status at least as strong as Ms. Warren’s — we are so intermingled at this point that we all have minority extraction. This is a good thing — an equalizer that would allow our society to move ahead fairly and justly, if not for the refusal of some to give up the life they’ve had because of the politics of envy and division.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The funny thing is that almost all of us have a claim to minority status at least as strong as Ms. Warren’s — we are so intermingled at this point that we all have minority extraction.”

    Not really.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_in_the_United_States#Multiracial_Americans_and_admixture

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The funny thing is that almost all of us have a claim to minority status at least as strong as Ms. Warren’s — we are so intermingled at this point that we all have minority extraction.”

    Not really.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_in_the_United_States#Multiracial_Americans_and_admixture

  • Jon

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-mlk-ihaveadream,0,36081.story

    DonS, you know nothing of King, though you hilariously presume to channel his current thoughts. I’ve posted a link to the speech.

  • Jon

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-mlk-ihaveadream,0,36081.story

    DonS, you know nothing of King, though you hilariously presume to channel his current thoughts. I’ve posted a link to the speech.

  • DonS

    sg @ 5: Um, one survey of one northeastern university in 2003. Definitive, that. Not sure where that university was, but the northeast is probably the most white part of the country, maybe along with the upper midwest. Nationally, the number is far higher, and growing continually, and in highly impacted areas like where you and I live, race id is pretty much a joke. Almost all of our kids and our friends’ kids can make a minority claim if they choose to.

    When everyone’s a minority, no one is.

  • DonS

    sg @ 5: Um, one survey of one northeastern university in 2003. Definitive, that. Not sure where that university was, but the northeast is probably the most white part of the country, maybe along with the upper midwest. Nationally, the number is far higher, and growing continually, and in highly impacted areas like where you and I live, race id is pretty much a joke. Almost all of our kids and our friends’ kids can make a minority claim if they choose to.

    When everyone’s a minority, no one is.

  • DonS

    Jon @ 6: I guess I set the bar too high for you. The answer to my question is obviously “no”.

  • DonS

    Jon @ 6: I guess I set the bar too high for you. The answer to my question is obviously “no”.

  • Jon

    DonS, I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarm–. Aw, what’s the use?.

    Seriously, read the King speech.

  • Jon

    DonS, I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarm–. Aw, what’s the use?.

    Seriously, read the King speech.

  • DonS

    Jon, I have read the speech. I admire the speech, as it is in the true spirit of what the civil rights movement was about. Try engaging in an exchange of ideas sometime, rather than insults and invective. You may actually find you enjoy it.

  • DonS

    Jon, I have read the speech. I admire the speech, as it is in the true spirit of what the civil rights movement was about. Try engaging in an exchange of ideas sometime, rather than insults and invective. You may actually find you enjoy it.

  • Jon

    DonS, you’re in my prayers.

  • Jon

    DonS, you’re in my prayers.

  • DonS

    Thanks, Jon. I always appreciate prayer.

  • DonS

    Thanks, Jon. I always appreciate prayer.

  • Michael B.

    Affirmative action is such an idiotic idea. It worsens the problem it’s trying to solve.

    I don’t care how liberal you are. When somebody hears about a minority getting into Harvard or some other elite institution, there’s always a small thought in his mind saying, “Is the only reason he’s going to Harvard is because he’s a minority?”. If he’s very liberal, he’s embarrassed to think it, but the thought still happens.

  • Michael B.

    Affirmative action is such an idiotic idea. It worsens the problem it’s trying to solve.

    I don’t care how liberal you are. When somebody hears about a minority getting into Harvard or some other elite institution, there’s always a small thought in his mind saying, “Is the only reason he’s going to Harvard is because he’s a minority?”. If he’s very liberal, he’s embarrassed to think it, but the thought still happens.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    sg @ 5: Um, one survey of one northeastern university in 2003. Definitive, that. Not sure where that university was, but the northeast is probably the most white part of the country, maybe along with the upper midwest.

    I don’t really follow what you are saying. They limited their DNA tests to students who self identify as white. So, it wouldn’t matter where these people are. People in New York and Texas know if they think they are white or not. Do you think people in New York instead of Texas would be more likely to say they are not white if they are 25% some other race? Or do you think the threshold for self identifying as white varies by region in the US? My friend’s kids are about 10% (native South American) hispanic and identify as hispanic. Assuming they marry whites like their parents, grandparents and great grandparents did, would you figure that their kids would identify as white? I mean, I don’t know, I would guess that since one parent got benefits for checking the appropriate ethnic box, they might figure why not. Given the incentives that are in place, I would figure that the odds are better than 50/50 that anyone who can identify as a preferred minority is going to do it.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    sg @ 5: Um, one survey of one northeastern university in 2003. Definitive, that. Not sure where that university was, but the northeast is probably the most white part of the country, maybe along with the upper midwest.

    I don’t really follow what you are saying. They limited their DNA tests to students who self identify as white. So, it wouldn’t matter where these people are. People in New York and Texas know if they think they are white or not. Do you think people in New York instead of Texas would be more likely to say they are not white if they are 25% some other race? Or do you think the threshold for self identifying as white varies by region in the US? My friend’s kids are about 10% (native South American) hispanic and identify as hispanic. Assuming they marry whites like their parents, grandparents and great grandparents did, would you figure that their kids would identify as white? I mean, I don’t know, I would guess that since one parent got benefits for checking the appropriate ethnic box, they might figure why not. Given the incentives that are in place, I would figure that the odds are better than 50/50 that anyone who can identify as a preferred minority is going to do it.

  • DonS

    sg @ 14: Well, now I’m the one who has no idea of what you are saying. Original point — the races are mixing, particularly in areas of the country where there is a very heterogeneous population. Very few people are 100% white, black, Mexican, Japanese, etc. Those who are of mixed race can self-identify however they want to — there is not really any mechanism in place to verify that self-identification — as Elizabeth Warren proved by her unverified (and ticky-tack) claim. I am not advocating that they should be — to the contrary. I am advocating that we stop looking at externals when evaluating applicants. We should be looking solely at performance and suitability for the position. That is what Dr. King wanted, and that is what we should be doing.

    Now, I questioned the Wikipedia article you linked to, apparently for the purpose of disproving my point that the races are mixing, because it referenced only a single university — 9 years ago — in the whitest part of our country, where it can be presumed that a lot less mixing has occurred. And even so, that study showed that there had been mixing in about 30% of the self-identified white population. That’s quite a bit.

  • DonS

    sg @ 14: Well, now I’m the one who has no idea of what you are saying. Original point — the races are mixing, particularly in areas of the country where there is a very heterogeneous population. Very few people are 100% white, black, Mexican, Japanese, etc. Those who are of mixed race can self-identify however they want to — there is not really any mechanism in place to verify that self-identification — as Elizabeth Warren proved by her unverified (and ticky-tack) claim. I am not advocating that they should be — to the contrary. I am advocating that we stop looking at externals when evaluating applicants. We should be looking solely at performance and suitability for the position. That is what Dr. King wanted, and that is what we should be doing.

    Now, I questioned the Wikipedia article you linked to, apparently for the purpose of disproving my point that the races are mixing, because it referenced only a single university — 9 years ago — in the whitest part of our country, where it can be presumed that a lot less mixing has occurred. And even so, that study showed that there had been mixing in about 30% of the self-identified white population. That’s quite a bit.

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