There is an active effort by Elizabeth Warren’s campaign to distract from the real issue regarding Warren’s claim of Native American status during the mid-80s to mid-90s, when she was moving from one law school to another up the food chain until she reached Harvard Law School in 1994, at which point she stopped self-identifying as Native American.

The Warren campaign has sought to make the issue whether Warren received preference based on her status, something they deny.  Several people involved in her hiring at various law schools vouch that her Native American status played no role.  As reported by The New York Times:

On Monday night, officials involved in her hiring at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Texas and the University of Houston Law Center all said that she was hired because she was an outstanding teacher, and that her lineage was either not discussed or not a factor.

Fine.  It played no role, or if it did, it never will be proven.  But that’s not the issue.

Given that until two days ago Warren relied soley on family “lore” for the claim, and even now all there is is a possibility of a great-great-great grandmother who was Cherokee, the issue is why Warren claimed the status at all.

What did she hope to gain?  Prof. David Bernstein, quoted in The Boston Herald, explains:

“In the old days before the Internet, you’d pull out the AALS directory and look up people. There are schools that if they were looking for a minority faculty member, would go to that list and might say, ‘I didn’t know Elizabeth Warren was a minority,’ ” said George Mason University Law professor David Bernstein, a former chairman of the American Association of Law Schools.

“Nowadays, if you hear about a candidate who might be available, you just do a Google search and find a resume online,” Bernstein added….

“That appendix strikes me as obviously allowing people to announce themselves as being members of minority groups in case people are looking for such members for whatever reason,” Bernstein said.

Why would Elizabeth Warren, who never suffered an ounce of discrimination on the basis of her alleged Native American status, whose parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents also suffered no such discrimination, feel justified in claiming such status, which she must have known would accrue to her benefit even if such benefit were not provable?

Something doesn’t add up here.

Update:  I think Joel Achenbach at WaPo finds the issue and uses the same term (game the system) I used last night:

It so happens we’ve discussed this a lot in my household in recent years, as my girls have applied for college. They have, according to family lore, Native American ancestry. This goes back to the 1800s, when my mother’s forebears were pioneers on the frontier in the upper midwest. Supposedly we have Potawatami kin. But it’s sketchy. We’ve never documented it….

Could my kids have tried to list themselves off as Native American? Maybe, but it would’ve been wrong, a gaming of the system in hopes of getting a marginal advantage they didn’t need to begin with (they got into great schools — one is at Oberlin, another at Michigan — the upper midwest!). They’re white, and belong to a sprawling tribe of affluent kids in Northwest Washington and have had every advantage in the world except perhaps being forced to wait for the bus when Dad won’t give them a ride somewhere.


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