Law Professor David Bernstein details “the often-surreal world of official American racial and ethnic classification,” and his book is an important resource as Americans of all races and ethnicities rise up against the economic and political power centers dependent on our absurd racial classification system.
I’m not sure when I first interacted with David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason’s Scalia Law School. It may have been through his blogging at Volokh Conspiracy. Or it may have been at one of our secret dark money vast right wing conspiracy gatherings (that’s a joke, Sheldon, just a joke).
But I definitely remember David’s decisive research on Elizabeth Warren. David was the person who discovered that Warren had been listed as “minority” in an important law faculty directory in the 1980s. That disclosure popped the public relations bubble Warren tried to create when her Native American scandal first broke, claiming not to know why Harvard Law School promoted her as its first Native American tenured professor. I described David’s critical role in exposing Warren in her entry at ElizabethWarrenWiki.org:
Soon after the Boston Herald report, information was uncovered by George Mason University Law School Professor David Bernstein that starting in the mid-1980s, when she was at U. Penn. Law School, Warren had put herself on the “Minority Law Teacher” list in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools but dropped from that list when she gain tenure at Harvard in 1995.
Warren had not previously revealed these law directory entries. The AALS directory was used as a recruiting tool by law schools in that time period in order to identify, among other things, minority law professors.
According to Professor David Bernstein:
“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.
Warren aides clammed up yesterday and refused to answer questions about why she stopped listing herself in the AALS directory after 1995. Around that time, Harvard Law School started boasting that Warren was their first minority female professor.
“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.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that David started Elizabeth Warren’s ethnic deception rolling downhill. Her fairy tale was unsustainable once it became clear that she self-identified as Native American, and it eventually sunk any chance Liz had of becoming president.
David’s seminal role in destroying Warren’s presidential hopes deserves high praise. We are in the presence of greatness. We are not worthy.
[As an aside, David also was one of the first people to come to my defense after the June 2020 crap that came my way at Cornell Law School, so he’s a stand-up guy.]
I thought of that Elizabeth Warren nugget uncovered by David in reading his new book, Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America.
The book details “the often-surreal world of official American racial and ethnic classification…. [and] explores the complex and sometimes bizarre real world of government-imposed racial classification.”
According to David:
“Official American racial and ethnic classifications are arbitrary and inconsistent, both in how they are defined and how they are enforced. The categories are socially constructed and historically contingent. They evolved from older racist categories and have barely been updated since the 1970s.”
David details it, analyzes it, and puts it in legal and social context. An example is the “Asian American” classification, which as the Harvard case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court shows, can severely damage a student’s admissions chances. So it matters. But it also makes no sense to have such a classification, as David writes:
“Consider the government’s official Asian American classification. This classification derives from a racist category used before the modern civil rights era to exclude those classified as Asian from immigration and citizenship. People in the Asian American category are extremely diverse in appearance, culture, religion, and ancestry. “Asian American” includes people with ancestry anywhere from Pakistan to Indonesia and Japan but excludes all people of western Asian origin. Most people who come within the Asian American category do not identify with that label.1 Nevertheless, they are classified as if they are part of a monolithic group.”
There are many, many other examples explored in detail in the book.
One that is important to my family, and something I’ve noted in the past, is whether my wife could claim to be Hispanic. Her family is decended from the Jews expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. Her grandfather and his family were from the Isle of Rhodes, a place with an ancient community of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain, before leaving prior to WWII (the remaining community was exterminated by the Nazis). Her father grew up speaking Ladino at home in New York City.
Does that make her Hispanic? Could she check the box to get affirmative action preference? David addressed a similar situation in his book:
“[Steve] Lynn’s sole claim to Hispanic status was that he was a Sephardic Jew whose ancestors had fled Spain centuries earlier….An SBA hearing officer also initially denied Lynn’s claim to Hispanic status because Lynn had not shown that he had been discriminated against as a Hispanic. But when Lynn appealed, the judge noted that the underlying law defined Hispanic as including anyone of Spanish origin or culture, which includes Sephardic Jews. The judge concluded that once Lynn showed that he had Spanish ancestry, the hearing officer should not have required him to also provide evidence that he had faced discrimination because of that ancestry.”
As David notes, “Racial and ethnic status is left mostly to self-identification.” Which means it’s abused and manipulated. Which brings me back to Elizbeth Warren, who Mark Steyn hilariously described as “the whitest white since Frosty the Snowman fell in a vat of White-Out.” That’s how white my wife is, and she had substantial and real supporting evidence of her ancestry unlike Warren. My wife never checked the box, unlike Liz. But she could have. Which is absurd.
I don’t know if David had Liz in mind, when he made these points, but if the shoe fits:
“Today, discrimination is still a barrier to minorities, but minority status makes Americans eligible for civil rights protections and affirmative action preferences that are not available to those classified as non-Hispanic whites.” …..
“One result has been the emergence of identity entrepreneurs— Americans who claim and leverage a minority identity for economic gain, even if that identity has never caused them significant harm.”
There are many other pertinent questions in the book.
“If a parent who identifies as black and his white-identified partner have a child, and that child checks off both boxes on a government form, should the government classify that child as black, white, multiracial, or something else?” …
One of the goals of the book is to show how these and other questions demonstrate just what a mess we are in when it comes to government racial classifications.
David concludes his book with a call to action, hoping that there is a way out of this mess:
“Hopefully, Americans also will one day look back on today’s racial divisions and accompanying tensions as a faintly ridiculous vestige of a less sophisticated, enlightened, and tolerant past. How the US government handles racial classification will be a decisive factor in whether that outcome comes to pass. Law played a significant role in establishing racial divisions in the United States, and law (or its absence) can play a significant role in either maintaining or abolishing, or at least severely mitigating, those divisions.”
Massive industries (such as DEI) and political power centers have grown up around and profit from this absurd racial classification system. There is too much money and power invested for them to let go without a fight. Yet there is pushback, as we’ve seen through the parents movement, and issues such as Critical Race Theory are front and center in the 2022 midterms. So maybe this racial classification beast can be tamed, even if it can’t be eliminated.
David’s book is an important contribution to shining a light on and helping to disinfect our destructive system of racial classification.
You can buy the book wherever books are sold (which basically means Amazon). I highly recommend it.DONATE
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