Will she ever overcome affirmative action’s stigma?
Elizabeth Warren looks like the love-child of Tilda Swinton and Edgar Winter. She talks like Ward Churchill, Iron Eyes Cody, and so many others who hail from the Cigar Store Indian Tribe.
“I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes,” fake Indian Warren told a conference of real Indians on Wednesday. “I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.”
Only she did.
The blue-eyed blonde listed herself as a minority in academic directories prior to obtaining employment by Harvard Law. After gaining tenure, her minority designation disappeared.
Warren now may downplay her invented ancestry’s role in obtaining employment but Harvard then boasted about it.
“Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the law school faculty includes no minority women, [then Harvard Law spokesman Mike] Chmura said professor of law Elizabeth Warren is Native American,” reported the Harvard Crimson 22 years ago.
No tribe recognizes her as one of their own and genealogy records show no evidence of even great-grandparents hailing from Native American ancestry. The record does show Warren attending a good law school, albeit the type that does not typically send on graduates to Ivy League schools to teach and does not ever send them to Harvard.
Warren graduated from Rutgers Law, which currently comes in at 62 — above Georgia State but below the University of Tennessee — in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. When I examined faculty at Harvard Law five years ago, I discovered that more than half of Harvard Law’s professors and assistant professors received their degrees from Harvard Law. Outside of specialists who obtained degrees outside of the field of law, every professor and assistant professor at the school graduated from a top-ten law school and just five graduated from a law-school in the bottom half of the top ten. Nobody from Rutgers Law besides Warren has ever received tenure from Harvard Law.
The incestuous culture of Harvard that imagines that elite minds only attend elite schools exhibits problems of its own. But clearly practice dictates that they exclusively grant tenure to those from the best of the best schools. Elizabeth Warren strikes as the sole counterexample.
Though the senior senator from Massachusetts depicts those mocking her as mocking Native Americans, she clearly mocked them in falsely portraying herself as a member of their historically-underrepresented group to obtain a job for which she did not possess the requisite qualifications. In doing so, she made a farce of affirmative action in a manner similar to the forgettable but amusing 1986 comedy, Soul Man.
Therein, C. Thomas Howell’s character dyes his skin to obtain a blacks-only scholarship to Harvard. Warren did not dress in Native American garb or wear brown contact lenses. How did her course otherwise differ from the script of Soul Man?
Possibly, Warren believed herself, through family lore, as an American Indian. Ancestry.com, after all, presents many people with many surprises. But nobody else ever mistook her for an Indian, and that’s the point. Affirmative action, whether one believes in it or not, aims to make up for past prejudices. What prejudice did Elizabeth Warren ever experience as a result of people mistaking her for a Native American?
She gamed the system. For Republicans inclined to dislike both her and affirmative action, her decision to play up a nonexistent ancestry transforms her into a caricature. For Democrats, perhaps inclined to like her and affirmative action, she proves problematic in taking advantage of a program they seek to defend. What Warren did to get ahead in the 1990s may hold her back in 2020.
That’s why she addressed the National Congress of American Indians, to get ahead of this question before 2020 primaries, when not just Donald Trump but rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination make it an issue.
Elizabeth Warren went native in Harvard Yard. Most voters, unfortunately for her, live far off that reservation.