Streetwise Professor

May 3, 2012

BSing Just Compounds the Offense

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 8:25 am

You can often tell more about someone by the way that he or she responds to an embarrassing revelation, than from the revelation itself.  That is definitely the case with Elizabeth Warren,  and her response to disclosures that she claimed Native American heritage during her climb up the legal academic ladder.  A claim based on “family lore.”

Warren’s explanation?  It was kinda like online dating, except before the internet became big:

Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, fending off questions about whether she used her Native American heritage to advance her career, said today she enrolled herself as a minority in law school directories for nearly a decade because she hoped to meet other people with tribal roots.

“I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something that might happen with people who are like I am. Nothing like that ever happened, that was clearly not the use for it and so I stopped checking it off,” said Warren.

And what kind of people are like her? Melanin challenged strivers? And really, is putting a listing in a directory the best way to snag luncheon invites? Do organizations of  “people with tribal roots” go trawling through professional directories, looking for people who checked the “Native American” box? If Warren really grew up immersed in tales of tribes, isn’t it pretty likely she have already known other “people like her”, whole groups of them in fact?  She did grow up in Oklahoma, for crissakes.  And uhm, wouldn’t it have been easier for Warren to have, you know, done some research-she is a scholar, after all-identified such a group, and joined it, rather than doing something that had about as much of a chance as being noticed by the Jay Silverheels Society as a message in a bottle?

But, aside from the “tribal roots” part, there is some truth to her remarks: she definitely used the Native American claim to try to ingratiate herself with people like her.  Or more accurately, people like she wanted to be: tenured faculty at prestige law schools.

She achieved her aim.  And lo and behold, once that happened, the references to her alleged Amerind heritage disappeared from view.  She had achieved what she wanted, and connecting with those of common ancestry had nothing to do with it: she had connected with the people she really wanted to be like.  Indeed, once she had gone to Harvard, the old claims became something of an embarrassment, raising the possibility that she was an affirmative action hire-a suspicion fed by Harvard’s touting her as an example of its commitment to diversity.  So the family lore was airbrushed out of her biography like the image of a disgraced party member in a Soviet encyclopedia.*

I would actually have more respect for Warren had she said: “Yeah.  I gamed the system.  There is a huge element of arbitrariness and luck in academic career advancement.  It’s dog eat dog.  You have to use any means to advance.  I did.  I got what I wanted.”

No, that would not be respectable, really, but it would at least have the virtue of refreshing honesty.  Instead, she compounds her past manipulativeness and deceit with a wildly implausible lie.  When you get caught, Elizabeth, own up to it.  Bullshitting just compounds the offense.

*Warren is now desperately trying to photoshop it back in, with a genealogist claiming, based on an electronic transcription that her GGG grandmother listed Indian on her marriage application.  Except that the original does not exist, and her marriage license does not list her as Indian.

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  1. I dated a Cherokee gal in college for a while. She received free higher education, the works. They came from her tribe I believe, or the government, can’t remember. Warren didn’t or couldn’t claim these types of benefits. Not sure what type of advancement she got out of clearly gaming the affirmative action system, but it’s pretty despicable.

    Comment by andrewi31 — May 3, 2012 @ 10:22 am

  2. Not quite obvious to me which is uglier: gaming the race-based advancement system or the system in the first place.

    Comment by Ivan — May 3, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  3. SWP, you’ve been hitting all my hot buttons one-by-one here. Nice work. Warren’s been a fool even before this mess, she’s just reinforcing it. We walked away from representing freedom with the China debacle. And we have a narcissist that will never notice any of this.

    Comment by Howard Roark — May 3, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

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