The estimable Elizabeth Warren is running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts against the incumbent Scott Brown. It turns out that Warren used to list herself as “Native American” in law school directories when she was teaching at Georgetown, Penn and Harvard. This has now become a campaign issue, the implication being that Warren, who had a Cherokee ancestor, was using the designation as an affirmative action dodge. Given the fact that Warren was a brilliant, and very popular, law professor the claim is ridiculous on its face. Also sort of ridiculous is Warren’s explanation that she listed herself that way in order to find others of similar background. (Life was so HARD before facebook.)…but I have personal reasons to think that she’s telling the truth.
My grandmother’s maiden name was Rachel Mendoza–our family was among the Jews kicked out of Spain in 1492–and at various times I toyed with the notion of listing myself as Hispanic on my tax returns and employment forms. It would have been a statement of pride and a mild protest against putting people in ethnic boxes, since we were all each other’s relatives somewhere back in the day. Never did it, though. But I’ll bet that’s what Warren was doing. It was a silly thing to do. Humans, including Scott Brown, do innocent, silly things from time to time. It should have absolutely no impact on this campaign.