Elizabeth Warren’s “Fauxcahontas” problem

Elizabeth Warren’s “Fauxcahontas” problem

Elizabeth Warren's "Fauxcohantas" problem

ELizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for US Senate in Massachusetts, was recently embroiled in controversy over indications that she has claimed in her academic biography to have minority status because of Native American heritage.

Storified by Domenico Bettinelli · Sat, May 05 2012 11:30:13

The story began with a report in the Boston Herald that Warren's employer, Harvard University, included her on a list of minority faculty because of supposed "Native American heritage", which the candidate rarely mentioned on the campaign trail and which the campaign scrambled to substantiate.
Harvard trips on roots of Elizabeth Warren's family treeElizabeth Warren's avowed Native American heritage - which the candidate rarely if ever discusses on the campaign trail - was once touted...
As the story progressed, it came out that Warren had listed herself in directories of minority faculty at several universities as far back as 1986. Warren defended her actions by saying she simply wanted to meet other people with "tribal roots".
Warren: I used minority listing to share heritageDemocratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, fending off questions about whether she used her Native American heritage to advance her ca...
Of course, the idea of "tribal roots" is pretty farcical considering that it's her great-great-great grandmother who was Cherokee. That makes her 1/32nd Cherokee, which is so diluted as to be dismissed by most geneticists as anything more than a genealogical curiosity.
How to Determine Your Native American PercentageMany inhabitants of the Americas have Native Americans heritage. Many people would like to know the percentage of their bloodline for gen...
In fact, I would have more claim to being Irish, English, Scottish, Russian, French-Canadian, or Jewish, than Elizabeth Warren has to being called Native American. On the other hand, if her background were the Kaw tribe, she'd be okay as that's the only one of all the US tribes that goes as deep as 1/32nd.
Blood quantum laws - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaBlood Quantum Laws or Indian Blood Laws is an umbrella term that describes legislation enacted in the United States to define membership ...
Which brings us to the latest jokes and humor. A Facebook friend posted a funny status update about how the Warren campaign was addressing the controversy head-on and linked to a "campaign ad" which was really this video.
Tim McGraw - Indian Outlaw (official music video)timmcgrawnumber1hits
So of course, I posted it on Twitter because it was so hilarious.
The latest Elizabeth Warren campaign ad addresses the #fauxcahontas controversy. #masen #mapoli http://youtu.be/NevytosR4XADomenico Bettinelli
Which resulted in this humorless liberal's response.
Look #ScottBrown they have an ethnic-name-tag #fauxcahontas. Good luck w/that ugliness. You'll get all the IndyVote @bettnet #masen #mapoliSuzanne Williams
@SuzanneWilliam4 And yet it was Elizabeth Warren who decided to use a fake ethnic heritage to pump up her biography. Which is uglier?Domenico Bettinelli
She tried to play the elitest academic card.
@bettnet How familiar are you w/academia, not including student? Genuine question. Not criticizingSuzanne Williams
But I could counter that easily.
@SuzanneWilliam4 My wife worked as a college professor until she had our first child 6 years ago.Domenico Bettinelli
@bettnet Then u kno culturally diverse facultiesr rspctd & ntwrkng for it is COMMON. For learning. She didn't lie. U just want her to have.Suzanne Williams
This left my jaw agape. Was she really suggesting that Warren was justified in her outrageous claim because it helped with her academic career? This is a lame defense.

But it's all part of the liberal academic elite idea of identity politics. What's not important is whether your claim to victim/oppressed/minority status is truly valid, so much as that you claim it. Yet this Suzanne Williams seems it's justified on the grounds of helping with faculty networking.
@SuzanneWilliam4 Telling a lie with a reason is still a lie. If she can be native A, then so can I along with most Americans. Stop spinning.Domenico Bettinelli
@bettnet Not spinning. Don't accuse me of it. Do U really blv she tried to get a pass as a NatAmer? It sounds outragous bc it is. It's crazySuzanne Williams
@SuzanneWilliam4 U said it urself: She wanted respect as a native American when she has no real basis for calling herself such.Domenico Bettinelli
@bettnet Not what I said. Ethnicity & culture are a very big part of academia Not sure how to explain that to you but I don't really care toSuzanne Williams
I do understand what she's saying. The problem is that she can't understand why I would think it's wrong. It's wrong because claiming an ethnicity and culture of a minority status doesn't help that minority group but disenfranchises them by watering down what it means to be them. Real native Americans suffered for decades (and continue to suffer in many places) from discrimination and disenfranchisement. But if someone with a golden spoon in her mouth like Elizabeth Warren can claim to be native American, then she would be a sign that things aren't as bad for native Americans as they really are.

There's nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage, but trying to capitalize on it as part of identity politics is wrong. I'm proud of my Jewish grandfather who escaped the Cossacks in Russia as a young boy and came to America to found a successful business, but I'm not going to offer my name for listing in directories of Jewish faculty or businessmen or anything else. Likewise, I'm proud of my French-Canadian Acadian heritage which I can trace back to French nobility that escaped the guillotine during the Revolution, but I'm not going to fly to Paris and walk into Versailles as if I own the place.
Elizabeth Warren may not have done anything illegal, and it may not even rise to the level of unethical conduct, but it's unseemly, especially for someone who wants to be a US Senator, and it smacks of an attitude and mindset that our country can do less of. 
In fact, it reminds me of our current senior Senator from Massachusetts. And we already have one of those.

  • To lie is to commit an intrinsically evil act. Period. Once can not do evil with the intention of good. To fabricate and advantageous lie when one is in a position of authority in a prestigious locale is particularly reprehensible. What in fact is the line if you claim to be a Native American when in fact you are not? And some sources are reporting that her ancestors actually participated (on the oppressive end) in the “Trail of Tears”.