Will Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Woman of Color’ Sham Come Back to Haunt Her?

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during an event to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why Elizabeth Warren really fears the “woman of color” controversy, President Trump gets a win in the courtroom and some long-overdue questions about whether a self-promoting lawyer is really helping his clients, and an eye-opening article about American mercenaries operating in Yemen.

The Pallid Excuses of Harvard Law’s First ‘Woman of Color’

As I noted yesterday afternoon, back in 1997, Harvard Law School was touting Elizabeth Warren as their first “woman of color” law professor. A year earlier, the law school had told the Harvard Crimson, in response to claims that the faculty wasn’t diverse enough, that “although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, [Mike] Chmura [spokesperson for the Law School] said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.” A year later, a Harvard Crimson editorial declared, “Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American.”

This was consistent throughout Warren’s career. As Benny Johnson noted, “Warren self-identified as a ‘Native American’ in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of law professors in every edition printed between 1986 -1995.”

A 2005 report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Minority Equity Committee referred to Warren as a minority award winner.

Back in 2012, Warren initially claimed she didn’t know the schools were referring to her that way, which is extremely unlikely. This would mean that Warren wasn’t following the debate about minority representation at the law school back in the 1990s and that she didn’t realize the law school was citing her as an example of minority representation.

But then a few weeks later she said she “provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.” As we now know, Warren is anywhere from 1/64 to 1/1024 Native American, and does not meet the criteria of “Native American” under anyone’s definition but her own.

She certainly doesn’t meet the Cherokee Tribe’s criteria. Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. issued a blistering statement yesterday:

A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America. Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, who ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is prove. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.

What’s more, the story Warren has been telling about her family history for years doesn’t make much sense now:

My mom and dad were very much in love and they wanted to get married. And my father’s parents said, ‘Absolutely not, you can’t marry her, because she’s part Cherokee and part Delaware.’ After fighting it as long as they could, my parents went off, and they eloped. It was an issue in our family the whole time I grew up about these two families. It was an issue still raised at my mother’s funeral.

Warren describes her family being torn apart by racial animosity . . . when everybody in the family is white. The Boston Globe wrote a long article attempting to dispel the notion that minority status played any role in any of Warren’s job opportunities, promotions, or tenure, but it included this quote from David Wilkins, one of the only black law professors on Harvard’s staff who voted for hiring Warren: “Let’s be blunt. Elizabeth Warren is a white woman. She may have some Native American roots, but so do most people.”

Elizabeth Warren is, by just about anybody’s definition, white. At the very least, she was comfortable with Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania describing her as a “person of color” or a racial “minority.”

The “person of color” characterization is what really worries Warren, I suspect. It’s easy to imagine some future presidential debate stage, and Kamala Harris, or Cory Booker, or Deval Patrick turning to Warren and asking, “Did you really think you deserved to be called a ‘woman of color’ in American society?”

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