There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s disputed and unproven claims of Native American heritage — claims of Cherokee and Delaware tribe heritage that stem from unverified family folklore handed down over generations.
Some of Warren’s critics have argued that she used her claim of Native American heritage to gain an advantage in her law professor career as a “minority,” meaning she gained coveted positions as a “minority” in liberal academia’s quest for “diversity” at the expense of actual minorities who would bring true diversity to law school faculties.
Others — like President Donald Trump — have merely ripped on Warren’s dubious claim by mockingly calling her “Pocahontas,” among other names, and have pointed out the hypocrisy of the left allowing a white woman like Warren to claim minority status at the expense of true minorities.
While there is little that can stop the latter from occurring, The Boston Globe endeavored to disprove the former — that Warren used her claimed Native American heritage to boost her career — in what can only be described as a full-court press defense on her behalf.
The rather lengthy report from The Globe noted that they had extensively reviewed hundreds of documents and conducted a similar number of interviews in relation to Warren’s release of her university personnel files… after six years of being asked about them.
The ultimate conclusion reached by The Globe was that Warren’s ethnicity appears to have not been a factor at all in the decision of Harvard Law School to hire Warren as a professor. Instead, it would seem that her gender as a woman played a much greater role in the hiring process.
Indeed, The Globe made contact with 31 of the Harvard law professors who had been involved with the 1993 discussions on whether to hire Warren, and all but one said that her heritage never even came up in the conversation. Even the one who said it did come up offered the caveat that it didn’t amount to anything other than a passing mention that held no weight on the overall decision.
The article reiterated Warren’s story of hearing about her family’s Native American heritage from her grandmother and aunts prior to their deaths, and pointed out how she started to claim that heritage on official forms beginning in the late 1980s.
However, in the review of the Harvard hiring process and her personnel records from other law schools she had taught at — like the University of Texas and University of Pennsylvania — Warren was almost always noted as a “white woman” when hired and then changed the records to reflect her claimed Native American heritage after she had begun working.
Incredibly, while The Globe may have shown that Warren herself may not have used her claimed heritage as minority to gain benefits, the schools that hired her very well may have. In fact, several of the schools proudly listed Warren as a minority in various official forms and publications — such as affirmative action forms or minority equity reports — in order to prove they had diverse faculties.
But in proudly posturing Warren as a diverse minority member of their faculties, to some extent or another, these schools may very well have denied actual qualified minorities an opportunity to gain a position that truly would have diversified their staff.
As for her being hired at Harvard, while her claimed Native American heritage may not have been a factor in the decision, her gender most certainly was as records show that Harvard was in the midst of a push to hire more female professors at that time, particularly one who would be in a tenured position.
“She was not on the radar screen at all in terms of a racial minority hire,” said Randall Kennedy, then a member of Harvard’s appointments committee who was in charge of recruiting minority candidates, to the Globe. “It was just not an issue. I can’t remember anybody ever mentioning her in this context.”
“It wouldn’t have even worked in the most diehard communities,” said David Wilkins, one of the only black law professors on Harvard’s staff who voted for hiring Warren, of the prospect of her heritage being a deciding factor in the decision. “Let’s be blunt. Elizabeth Warren is a white woman. She may have some Native American roots, but so do most people.”
In the end, critics can only wonder why Warren repeatedly had personnel records changed from “white” to “Native American” when it appears she didn’t directly benefit from that claimed minority status.
Regardless, while The Globe may have valiantly fended off critiques of Warren on that particular front with regard to her dubious heritage claims, the issue is far from being completely satisfied and will likely continue to dog Warren as she contemplates making a presidential run in 2020 — where Trump is ready and waiting for the opportunity to go full bore after “Pocahontas” for her hypocrisy and lies.
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