May 1, 2012

ELIZABETH WARREN now says 1/32 Cherokee. Hey, I’ve got double that amount of Cherokee ancestry. If I’d known that was all it took to get a job at Harvard . . .

But George Zimmerman is 1/8 black and that doesn’t count, apparently — he’s still a “white Hispanic.” And he doesn’t look nearly as white as Elizabeth Warren.

UPDATE: Reader David Stine suggests that this is just another case of life imitating South Park.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Elizabeth Warren’s Drop Of Cherokee Blood.

On what basis does someone who is 1/32nd of anything claim that 1/32nd as ethnicity or race for any purpose? And is it believable that Warren had no purpose in claiming Native American status when she was building her career in a field which desperately sought minority, and particularly Native American, members.

The issue, though, is larger than Warren personally and goes to the ethos of Warren’s campaign.

How ironic that the new liberal lioness has resorted to counting drops of blood for her self-identification.

That’s not really ironic. A return to the one-drop rule is the logical result of the Democrats’ approach to race. Except, as with George Zimmerman, when it’s inconvenient.

MORE: Bob Krumm on Pudd’nhead Warren:

If Elizabeth Warren, by virtue of her great-great-great-grandmother is entitled to protected status, are my children also minorities as a result of their Powhatan Indian ancestry that dates to the 17th century? As my eldest is applying for colleges next year, that would be awesome news? And if her 1/512th Indian ancestry doesn’t qualify, where is the breakpoint? Is it 1/64th? Or 1/128th? Or 1/256th? Exactly how many drops of minority blood makes one a minority?

Mark Twain exposed the folly of this system of racial discrimination in Pudd’nhead Wilson way back in 1893. The story is set in the antebellum South and involves a baby, born (coincidentally) 1/32nd black, but who was white enough that his mother switched the infant with a white baby so that her son could be raised free from the stain of her race. Twain originally started the story as a comedic interpretation of the mixed up social mores of his day, but as his writing continued the story evolved into a tragedy.

That’s how I view the Elizabeth Warren story too: farce that obscures tragedy. The real issue is not Elizabeth Warren’s gaming of the system to her advantage; it is that this system of racial discrimination even exists. Here we are in the 21st century arguing about how many drops of blood makes a white man black. That’s a tragedy.

Mark Twain is mocking us from the grave.

What do you mean “us,” white man? But I have to say, I’m enjoying this because it is illustrating the absurdity of the system. I wish I believed that had been Elizabeth Warren’s intent.

MORE STILL: While Hans Bader is right that affirmative action is — like so many other allegedly uplifting policies — often gamed by the better-off, I have to correct a few of his other statements. First, while I’ve never used my own Native American descent, such as it is, to get any preferences, I have checked the box sometimes, and I encourage others to do so as well. As Burke Marshall once pointed out, in a nation where everyone is a minority, no one is really a minority. And I think that’s good.

Second — and this is to some degree a point in Elizabeth Warren’s favor, and in some ways not so much — the whole focus on having “Indian blood” is more a creature of federal regulation than of actual Indian sentiment. John Ross, generally considered the greatest Cherokee chief of all time, was only of 1/8 Cherokee descent — the same amount that George Zimmerman is black. The tradition among most of the tribes, as I understand it, was that it mattered more whose side you were on than who your daddy (or mommy) was. That’s why the creation of the Dawes Roll was met with resistance. Sorting people by descent was convenient for federal bureaucrats, but it didn’t really reflect any pre-existing tradition. And, of course, federal bureaucrats would still like to sort people by descent, categorizing as narrowly as was done under the one-drop rule of the old Jim Crow era, as satirized by Twain, above. The thing is, though, as America becomes increasingly multi-racial (which, being proudly pro-miscegenation, I’m all for) the one-drop rule will let people make a lot of choices as to what they want to call themselves. And why shouldn’t they? If the authorities institute the kind of anthropometric tests and classifications that we saw in apartheid-era South Africa, that will only serve to underscore how un-American the effort to racially pigeonhole people is.

The more telling phenomenon with Warren isn’t that she called herself Native American at one point — it’s that, once she got to where she couldn’t benefit from affirmative action any more, she stopped doing so. Perhaps, despite what affirmative action’s boosters claim, there really is a stigma. So once Harvard had hired her, and touted her as a “diversity” candidate, she’d wrung all the benefit out of that she could and it was better to let that one slide and let everyone assume she’d gone up the non-diversity ladder instead. That’s pretty telling, isn’t it?

As I’ve said before, I don’t think what she did was fraudulent, but her changeup does illustrate the hypocrisy that seems, inevitably, to accompany affirmative action or “diversity” programs. Now for outright fraud, well, that would be multimillionaire Elizabeth Warren with her mid-six-figure salary and big corporate consulting gigs posing as a member of “the 99%.” That’s fraudulent self-labeling.

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