It was revealed today that, at best, liberal Massachusetts Senate candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) may be 1/32 Native American, casting doubt on her credibility–and on the entire enterprise of identity politics, including affirmative action in academic hiring.
Warren struggled to produce some proof of her ancestry (in this case, a great-great-great grandparent) after it emerged that Warren has identified herself as a minority in professional directories from 1986 to 1995, when she taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas.
Warren was listed as a Native American in the Association of American Law Schools’ annual directory of minority law teachers for a decade, according to the Boston Herald, which obtained the records.
Furthermore, Warren was described as a “minority” in a 1996 article in The Harvard Crimson: “Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.”
That would have been welcome news to Critical Race Theory pioneer Derrick Bell, who left Harvard Law School in 1990 in protest at the lack of tenured, female, minority faculty members. Lani Guinier, hired in 1998, is regarded as the law school’s first black female tenured professor. Warren’s hiring as a minority seems not to have attracted much attention from Bell–or, indeed, from others in the movement for faculty diversity.
Incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown’s campaign said the story “raises serious questions about Elizabeth Warren’s credibility. The record now shows Warren did claim to be a ‘minority,’ and that she attempted to mislead the public about these facts when she was first asked about the issue last week.”
The Warren campaign, incredibly, responded by accusing the Brown campaign of sexism, “once again, the qualifications and ability of a woman are being called into question by Scott Brown …”.
Warren told the Boston Herald that “she could not ‘recall’ ever listing her Native American background when applying for college or a job,” which means she or her prospective employers could have had access to the law school directories when on the hunt for prospective new faculty members.
Even more curiously, David Bernstein of the Volokh Conspiracy blog notes that once Warren joined the Harvard faculty, her name suddenly disappeared from the directory of minority professors, which could lead one to believe that Warren knew all along that she had been identified as a minority and could have corrected the error.
Prominent Harvard law professor Charles Fried, who the Boston Globe described as being influential in Warren’s recruitment, said he was not aware that Warren was listed as a minority during his recruitment of her.
Yet the fact that Fried could not fathom that Warren could be a minority makes the fact that Warren was listed as a minority in an influential directory of minority professors for so long even more outrageous.
The practice of claiming minority status to obtain the benefits of affirmative action policies is sometimes known as “fronting,” and is a basis for criticism of those policies.
The one consolation for Warren is that, using the mainstream media’s new racial classification standards from the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, she might now attempt to claim to be a “white Native American.”