Politics & Policy


Set aside, for a moment, the mere fact of Elizabeth Warren’s undocumented claims of Cherokee heritage, such sentences as “My pawpaw had high cheekbones, like all the Indians do,” the hokey Pow Wow Chow cookbook with recipes from Le Pavillon (which was located in the famous Cherokee territory of Fifth Avenue, across from the St. Regis Hotel — happy hunting grounds, indeed), and listing herself as a member of a minority group in the Harvard directory. Forget all of that for a moment and consider that Harvard Law School advertised Elizabeth Warren — blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale to the point of translucence — as its “first woman of color” enjoying tenure. It would later cite her presence on the faculty as evidence of its commitment to “diversity.” And she allowed it.

One would think that Harvard’s law school and one of its most prominent professors might have some interest in the question of evidence. (They still teach the rules of evidence at Harvard Law.) Like most Indian tribes, the Cherokee are fairly picky about who gets to call himself a Cherokee, and, unlike Harvard, they demand documentation. Indeed, it is a commentary on our times that “Cherokee genealogist” describes an occupational specialization, and a prominent Cherokee genealogist has reiterated that Ms. Warren has no documentable claim to Cherokee ancestry. This is not unusual: So common are false claims of Cherokee ancestry that among genealogists “My grandmother was a Cherokee princess” is a punch line. But the typical third-grader uttering this sentence is not running for the U.S. Senate nor contributing to the alleged “diversity” of Harvard Law.

So while the situation is amusing, it is not a joke — it is the poison fruit of the Left’s long history of racial exploitation reaching its ripeness. It has long been known that affirmative-action programs advertised as benefiting blacks and members of other minority groups in government contracting and the like have mainly benefited white women — to a great extent college-educated, well-off white women such as Ms. Warren. When it comes to coveted benefits such as admission to prestigious universities, scholarships to pay for same, and academic appointments afterward, the racial spoils system has created powerful incentives for misrepresentation. Ms. Warren protests that her misty claims of Native American ancestry played no role in her being hired as a professor at Harvard or at Penn, but that claim, like her Cherokee ancestry, is undocumented, the universities’ personnel records being sealed against inquiry. To ignore such considerations would certainly have been out of character for Harvard Law, which proudly describes itself as an “Affirmative Action / Equal Opportunity Employer,” and which positively seethes with ideological discontent. In the academic world, “diversity” really means hiring liberals of all kinds.

Besides getting both government and private institutions into the distasteful business of imposing a politicized racial-classification system on the American public, “diversity” of the Harvard variety has undermined the genuine study and appreciation of human diversity. There is a world of difference between eating sushi on Asian Culture Day and learning to read the classics in Japanese — the difference between “multiculturalism” and culture. Elizabeth Warren is Cherokee in the same way the chow-mein sandwich at Nathan’s Famous is Chinese: Checking the box is not sufficient.

Ms. Warren, who checked the “white” box at the University of Texas before getting in touch with her inner Cherokee when she stormed the Ivies, owes it to the people of Massachusetts to make the records of the Harvard Law hiring committee available to voters. Harvard, though a private institution, owes the people of its home state the same. If Ms. Warren’s undocumented claim to minority status did in fact play a role in the law school’s decision to hire her as a professor enjoying a prestigious, middle-six-figures chair, that is a fact of public importance.

Ms. Warren has no doubt been embarrassed by all this. Harvard and Penn should be embarrassed, too.


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