An almost 6,000-word article published on Saturday in the Boston Globe is billed as the “most exhaustive review undertaken of Elizabeth Warren’s professional history” and seeks to settle the debate as to whether her decision to ‘self-identify’ as a Native America advanced her law career.
The piece opens with a description of a huddle of law professors trying to decide if they should hire Warren as a professor in response to the demand for more diversity on the school’s staff.
Was Warren on the agenda because, as her critics say, she had decided to self-identify as a Native American woman and Harvard saw a chance to diversify the law faculty? Did she have an unearned edge in a hugely competitive process? Or did she get there based on her own skill, hard work, and sacrifice?
The question, which has hung over Warren’s public life, has an answer.
In the most exhaustive review undertaken of Elizabeth Warren’s professional history, the Globe found clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools. At every step of her remarkable rise in the legal profession, the people responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman.
The Globe claims its investigation included hundreds of documents and reaching out to all 52 law professors still living who took part in her being hired as a Harvard professor. Of the 31 who responded to the Globe, only one said he believed Warren’s Native American status was discussed ahead of the hiring decision.
In a “lengthy” interview with the Globe Warren “opened up for the first time” about her alleged Native American ancestry.
“She explained that it was passed on to her as a fact of family lore and that a generation of women in her family were aging, and dying, in the late 1980s,” the Globe wrote. “As they faced mortality, Warren said, they focused more on the family’s American Indian ancestry, and the impression stuck with her.”
The Globe’s timing of the piece the outlet claims settles the matter — even without any actual proof of Warren’s Native American ancestry — comes ahead of her Senate re-election bid in the November and her potential presidential run in 2020.
“You have what I have,” Warren told the Globe, “pledging that she had turned over every record in her possession about her years as a teacher at five different law schools and a stint visiting at another.”
“My family is my family, but my background played no role in my getting hired anywhere,” Warren said.
The Globe report included records in the possession of a University of Pennsylvania professor — the university where Warren worked from 1987 to 1995 — that said she was a “white female applicant.”
“Not until she had been teaching at Penn for two years did she authorize the university to change her personnel designation from white to Native American, the records show,” the Globe reported, adding that she also changed her ethnicity to reflect Native American after she started her job at Harvard.
The Globe piece includes a long description of Warren’s early education, employment at the University of Houston Law School and the University of Texas at Austin, and the relationships with her first and second husbands.
“Records from Texas show that Warren was consistent when asked to indicate her ethnicity: The box ‘white’ is checked on personnel forms from 1981, 1985, and 1988,” the Globe reported.
The Globe also reported that in a “decision that would come to haunt her” Warren listed herself as a minority law professor in the University of Texas Association of American Law Schools annual directory.
The Globe also noted that being a woman could have helped her at Harvard: “If Warren benefited from affirmative action at Harvard, it had to do with her gender, according to several members who said the desirability of hiring a woman was discussed.”
And one black professor who voted to hire Warren at Harvard told the Globe being Native American wasn’t part of her appeal.
“It wouldn’t have even worked in the most diehard communities,” David Wilkins said. “Let’s be blunt. Elizabeth Warren is a white woman. She may have some Native American roots, but so do most people.”
But, according to the Globe, “Once Warren was working at the law school in a permanent job, her status as Native American wasn’t a secret. Administrators marked her down as a Native American from 1995 to 2004.”
And in the Globe piece, Warren admits there is a difference between family lore and tribal membership.
“I wish that I had been more mindful of the distinction between heritage and tribal citizenship,” Warren said, “Only the tribes can determine tribal citizenship and I respect their right.”
“That’s why now I don’t list myself here in the Senate as Native American,” Warren said.
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