Senator Elizabeth Warren’s strange insistence that trace amounts of American Indian DNA confirm her past claims to minority status has drawn snorts from her fellow liberals, as well as from conservatives. Even the Cherokee Nation piled on, saying she is “undermining tribal interests.”
Americans from all sides who disdain identity politics should recognize, however, the yeoman’s work the senior senator from Massachusetts is doing to expose the empty core of our new national pastime, the victimhood Olympics.
From protected statuses to grievance-mongering, set asides, racial preferences, bias training, political correctness and hegemonic narratives, the whole edifice of identity politics rests on the foundational notion that we are all members of monolithic groups. Each is imbued with group-think and scrambles for pole position on the national stage through power relations — or some such.
Warren is making it plainly obvious that we’re all a mix, a bit of this and a dash of that. If there is a power struggle taking place, it is internal — your French genes fighting your English ones in some intestinal Waterloo.
In other words, in a day and age when we can all spit into a vial, mail it to a genomics company, and in a few days find out we are 10 percent Slavic, 5 percent Irish, 2 percent Bantu and 0.5 percent Polynesian, claims that a Mexican great-grandfather should give us a leg up in admission to Harvard ring increasingly hollow.
Neither should the U.S. Census ignore 21st century science and continue to shoehorn us into absurd categories — such as Hispanics, Asians, Middle East and so forth — that are then used to grant some groups, but not others, benefits and protected status.
It’s a bit of cosmic retribution that Harvard, which listed Warren as a minority and a “woman of color” when she taught law there in the 1990s, finds itself at the moment in the midst of a lawsuit by Asian American students who charge the university discriminates in the name of racial preferences.
Warren is soldiering on, claiming the DNA results she released Monday vindicate her long-standing claims of Native American heritage. Perhaps she feels she has no other option, having built a career on her alleged minority status.
As Benny Johnson reports, in her pre-Harvard days, Warren asked that the University of Pennsylvania change her ethnicity from white to Native American. And year after year she self-identified as “Native American” in The Association of American Law Schools Directory of law professors.
For the record, what the DNA revealed was that Warren has between 1.56 percent and 0.097 percent American Indian DNA — and measured, at that, against DNA samples from Peru, Mexico and Colombia, not from the United States.
That was a point that Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. picked up on as he unloaded on Warren. “A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America,” Hoskin said in a statement.
Indeed, Warren’s ethnic makeup could make her considerably less Indian than the average American “white,” who according to a comprehensive report by the Genetic Literacy Project has an average of 0.18 Native American blood.
Some news outlets, without irony nor journalistic rigor, reported the DNA findings as vindicating Warren’s racial claims. NBC said she “is now answering” President Trump’s “bluff” because he’s long taunted her on the matter.
Most normal Americans will probably be able to see through this. It’s noteworthy that despite the identity pieties that the media inflicts on the country 24/7, a recent and massive new report revealed that popular revulsion against PCness and racial preferences in university admissions is on the rise. Both have become 80/20 issues.
President Trump will doubtless continue ridiculing Warren’s claims of inherited disadvantage, keeping the issue alive. Soon enough, even tone-deaf politicians will notice just how unpopular identity politics has become.
And we will all have Elizabeth Warren to thank.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill on 10/18/18