Elizabeth Warren Under Fire For Listing Herself As Minority On Harvard Law Faculty

Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is under increasing criticism over her listing herself as a Native American as a law professor — a status reported by Harvard Law School in counting her as a minority faculty member. There is limited evidence that Warren is indeed Native American. At most, the degree of indian blood is extremely low. Warren has answered the criticism by saying that she was not trying to use minority status for her own professional benefit but to establish personal associations. The controversy has caused a buzz among law professors as to the definition of minority status for professors and students alike.


Warren listed herself as a Native American minority for years on the directory of law professors. She insisted in an interview this week that “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,.”

Warren is a very talented academic and I do not share the view that she was given her position at Harvard (or received her well-deserved praise as an academic) due to the claim of being a minority.

There is a mixed record on the question of her great great great grandmother. The article below says that genealogists at the New England Historic Genealogical Society were unable to support claims that her great great great grandmother is Cherokee. O.C. Sarah Smith is listed on an electronic transcript of a 1894 marriage application as Cherokee but they have been unable to find the original record. However, it would seem to be that the electronic record should give Warren the benefit of the doubt as to her beliefs in her ancestry. That does not entirely answer the question, however. Even if true, such a connection would constitute a reported 1/32 part Native American. Many Americans have such a small connection to Native Americans.

Is it relevant to running for political office if voters believe that Warren wrongly claimed or exaggerated minority status?  I see no reason why someone should not claim ancestry tied to Native Americans, no matter how tangential.  While I expect that there are a couple dozen of other bloodlines and cultures in the Warren family with equal or greater presence, it is clearly something that the family took pride in as part of its history.

Putting aside the hyper partisanship that seems to warp all analysis these days, there remains some difficult questions for the legal academy. While I do not believe that Warren’s well-earned success was due to this claim, she did make the claim for years and being a minority law professor does work to the advantage of both the academic and the school as institutions work to increase their minority numbers of both students and professors. The controversy also highlights the uncertain standards for claims of minority status among law schools. We are currently in the midst of a scandal over inflated employment numbers and the effort to impose concrete standards for how to count employment. Do we need the same reexamination of the claim of minority status or should it be entirely self-defined for each academic?

What do you think?

Source: Boston Herald

123 thoughts on “Elizabeth Warren Under Fire For Listing Herself As Minority On Harvard Law Faculty”

  1. Mike said:

    “It’ s precisely why I never went into politics despite the fact that I was a great public speaker, had the looks and was generally very likable.”

    Shoulda done it Mike. I’d have voted for you. Your humility would have won me over.

    Just kiddin.’

    1. Patric,
      That wasn’t lack of humility. I was just being truthful. To paraphrase Emerson: A false humility is merely the hobgoblin of little minds.

  2. Dagmar:

    As a desert paramedic for years, I’ve been involved with several reservation councils, working to improve a variety of issues. So I’ve experienced your concerns firsthand. And they are undeniable.

    But my take is this: If you are not succeeding by what you are doing – do something else.

    And if you are not doing well where you happen to be – move.

    That is, is it not, how most of us came to be.

    I believe it is entirely possible to liberate oneself from the unsustainable load of the victim complex.

    We all pack our own baggage..

  3. I invite all of you to come to the reservation that borders my hometown to witness the “advantage” of being a Native American in the USA in 2012.

  4. Thomas Sowell
    The reparations fraud

    http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com — SELF PRESERVATION is said to be the first law of nature, and this applies not only to human beings but also to organizations and movements. The March of Dimes was set up to fight polio but it did not disband when polio was wiped out by vaccines. Nor did civil rights organizations disband after civil rights laws were passed.

    The fatal mistake made by those who imagine that they can appease movements and organizations with concessions is that concessions are incidental trophies for those who receive them, but unmet grievances are fundamental to their continued viability.

    Back in the 1930s, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought that he could buy off Hitler with concessions to avoid war. More recently, both Israel and the Clinton administration discovered that offering even the most extraordinary concessions could not buy off Yasser Arafat. For either Hitler or Arafat to have made a lasting peace would have been to say that his grievances had now been met — and that would have been a devastating blow to the movement which provided his power.

    Against this background, it may be easier to understand why a demand can be made and a crusade launched to get something that everyone knows in advance will not be given — reparations for slavery. No way are millions of white, Asian, and Hispanic Americans going to pay reparations for something that happened before their ancestors ever set foot on American Soil. Even those whites whose ancestors were here before the Civil War know that most of those ancestors — whether they lived in the North or the South — owned no slaves.

    Seen in this light, the demand for reparations may seem like an exercise in futility. However, seen as a source of a lasting unmet grievance, it is a stroke of genius to keep blacks separated from other Americans and an aggrieved constituency to support black “leaders” in politics, organizations and movements.

    This demand also mobilizes a certain amount of support or sympathy among whites, especially those in the media and in academia, where such support or sympathy costs nothing, and allows those who give it to relieve their own sense of guilt, while risking other people’s money — and national cohesion. Some white politicians can also benefit at little or no cost to themselves by expressing sympathy with the reparations cause or even voting for meaningless apologies for what others did centuries ago.

    For these various groups, reparations is a win-win issue. For everyone else, including the vast majority of blacks, it is a lose-lose issue.

    Blacks have already begun suffering losses from con men who have asked them to sign up for their individual shares of the reparations — and have then stolen their identity and used it to defraud them. But this is just a down payment on the losses from this futile crusade.

    In a democracy, a minority that is no longer even the largest minority cannot afford to alienate, much less embitter, the majority which ultimately holds the political power in the country. Too often, unending demands and grievances from black leaders and spokesmen create the impression that most blacks want something for nothing. In reality, most blacks lifted themselves out of poverty before the civil rights laws or the welfare state programs took effect.

    Not only do most whites not know this, neither do most blacks today, for their leaders have taken credit for this progress by depicting it as the fruits of their civil rights movements and political efforts. But the poverty rate among blacks fell by half between 1940 and 1960, before any of the major federal civil rights legislation or the vast expansion of the welfare state under President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs.

    Between 1940 and 1960, black males’ number of years of schooling doubled. How surprising is it that doubling your education raises your income? In short, most blacks raised themselves out of poverty, but their leaders robbed them of this achievement and the respect it deserved — in the eyes of blacks and whites alike — by making it seem like a concession from the government and a product of agitation.

    Pointing blacks in a direction from which little can be expected, and away from the enormous opportunities open today in the economy, is a formula for personal frustration, even if it benefits “leaders.” But then, that frustration is itself a benefit to “leaders,” who need a constituency with a sense of grievance.

    JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.

  5. @Patric: Even though I would be personally be entitled to NONE of it and would be on the paying side of things, I think there is some merit, for three or four generations, in which the offspring of the oppressed are entitled to some special consideration.

    There are structural losses involved. If Sam is a slave to Oscar (hypothetical names to indicate slave and owner) his entire life, then Oscar profited from Sam’s labor and Sam was denied any fruits of his own labor.

    So suppose Sam dies but leaves a son, Trent, who is also a slave of Oscar, but while Trent is a baby Oscar is forced by war to free his slaves. So he does. After the war Oscar has a son, Pete, and then Oscar dies, and Pete inherits his lands and other wealth.

    So Sam and Oscar are now dead, leaving sons Trent and Pete.

    Well, Pete is still enjoying the wealth created by Sam the Slave. Pete was never a slave-owner himself, but he is rich on slavery nonetheless, and Trent, the freed slave, may be morally better off free, but was still denied the leg up in life he might have enjoyed if his father’s labor had not been systematically stolen.

    I don’t think Pete should be allowed to receive stolen goods just because his father stole them, and not him. Those goods belonged to Sam, in some sense, and Trent is the rightful inheritor of them.

    We may not be able to unravel all the relationships in something like slavery, but we can know that they exist, and collectively we can do SOMETHING to alleviate the losses. Even if the guilty are not thoroughly punished, we can undo some of the provable harm done to the innocent.

  6. Idealist said:

    “(I) would gladly check “human” if I could.”

    Possibly the most prescient comment on the board?

    I have to wonder how many eons will pass, before we cease this playground nonsense. A select few holding themselves out as special lifeforms? A self-aggrandizing government demanding it? An entire society believing it makes sense? And the justification is? Well, because we – some of us, not all – just happen to have the unmitigated good fortune to be blood-related to poor souls who were once seriously, societally, undeniably, mistreated.

    I’m having a hard time imagining another more arbitrary; more inherently flawed; more appropriately ready to be given its own Christian burial custom, than this continued jockeying for social advantage, made possible by poor dead relatives who experienced far worse days than we will ever know.

    My take is, a decent moral compass means not tap-dancing our good luck, on the graves of those who – were they alive today – are the only ones deserving of being ushered to the front of any line.

    But that’s just me.

  7. Yes, I see now where my recollection was incorrect and what I should have written is this: It was Scott Brown who went to the “elite” schools, and it was Elizabeth Warren who went to a state college and then to Rutgers Law School, which may be a fine school but is not thought of as an “elite” school. Scott Brown went to Tufts University and Boston Law School, which are considered elite schools. I guess my point is that Scott Brown supporters have tried to portray Elizabeth Warren as part of the out-of-touch elite because she is now a Harvard professor. The fact is that she got to where is is today because of her hard work and outstanding intellectual ability.

    The Wall St. boys hate Elizabeth Warren because she wants to rein in the unregulated chicanery they have been so free to indulge in since the passion to de-regulate Wall St. began in the 1980s.

  8. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    native n :one that is native; esp :a person who belongs to a particular country by birth

    I was born in America. Therefore I am a “Native American”. Now can I open my casino?

  9. I guess what we have here is a problem in perception.

    If I were cum laude, order of the coif, law review editor, white shoe NY law firm, then I would probably think $250,000 was chump change too. I would probably believe most anybody with a college degree, with a little extra effort could put together a job, or a couple of jobs, or a business and make 6 figures.

    Well I am not and I don’t believe that. I haven’t checked the stats for income distribution recently. But many, if not most Americans will work years to put together $250,000. $250,000 might as well be $250 million or $250 billion as far as most American are concerned. They are never going to get close to that kind of annual income.

    Part of the problem is that many of today’s so called conservatives have forgotten what Ronald Regan knew. It has to trickle down. The economy has to work for every body. Regan knew that when the pie gets bigger, everybody has to get a bigger slice. For decades that has not been happening in this country.

    In a sense this is a self limiting problem. For decades the top 10%, the top 1%, the top .1% have been taking a greater share of available income. Eventually, the 99.9% will not have enough share of income to support the economy. It is in no ones interest, absolutely no ones interest, to have that happen.

  10. Yeah, I like that.

    Assuming your parents did not have a preference for heart warming pictures of children painted in the Norman Rockwell style there might be some real money in that.

    Or how about your parents taking a second mortgage on the family mansion. Even at today’s reduced real estate values, your parents might have a boat load of equity tied up in the family house.

    At at today’s historically low interest rates, even a 2nd might be a good deal for your purposes. And, with a little luck, you might be able to float your new business and help your parents pay the 2nd so it would be painless for them.

    Just be sure you know what your are doing, because if you miscalculate your parents could be spending their golden years at the local homeless shelter.

    BTW, I am not now nor have I ever been Suze Orman, so any consideration of financial advice seen here ought to include assessment of probability of detection and sentencing guidelines.

  11. If your parents’ capital isn’t fluid, ask them to auction their paintings.

    1. @rafflaw

      You know the inevitable questions and comments are coming don’t you.

      Did you even try. It is not as though $200,000 temporary jobs in the summer are easy to find. But with a little effort, a little perseverance, a little creativity you ought to be able to find something.

      I mean if you did not even try, then surely your not going complain to us – are you?

      I mean its only $66,000 a month. How hard could it be?

      OK lets try an easier problem. Suppose you would make $250,000 on an annualized basis, but you only work 9 months of the year.

      So for 9 months effort you are in at $187,500 and only have to find a temporary summer job that pays $62500 for three months work in order to reach your financial goal of $250,000.

      Or am I missing something.

      Here I get a little rusty. I haven’t checked Bureau of Labor Statistics lately to know what temporary jobs might pay $20833 per month so that we can reach or summer goal of $62,500.

      But I am pretty sure bank robbery is out. Typical bank robbers only get a few hundred a job, so forget that.

      I would suggest dealing drugs but even in that lucrative field it takes a while to work your way up to clear approximately $21000 every month.

      I not giving up. But Unless getting a temporary job at Bain Capital is in the cards I think you might have to lower your financial expectations a just a bit.

      Or perhaps you could talk to mom and dad, get them to cash in their 401K’s, show a little entrepreneurial spirit, start a company and knock down, maybe, $100k in the summer.

      It is just not that complicated. I don’t know why you guys are complaining.

  12. rafflaw,

    Brown said: “You throw in a teacher who’s working, plus a summer job, it adds up pretty quickly,” he said. “There’s quite a few of them.”

    *****

    If only I had worked a second job, I might have earned $250,000 a year! I’d like to know how I could have made $200,000 at a second job. The man is clueless.

  13. “Many of them don’t care about the common working and retired folks like us.”

    I noticed that your word choice was “don’t care” instead of “don’t know”, Elaine.

    Most appropriate.

    1. Instant classic. Much less painful than beating my head against the wall. Thanks.

  14. rafflaw,

    I think most of the politicians in Washington aren’t living in the real world. Congress is filled with millionaires. Many of them don’t care about the common working and retired folks like us.

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