No, she didn’t exactly say that, but here are her actual words at the National Congress of American Indians earlier this week.
“I get why some people think there’s hay to be made here. You won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe. … I respect that distinction . . . I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career. . . . my mother’s family was part Native American.”
There are at least three possibilities: (1) she spat into a vial and sent it to 23andme.com, confirming that there’s some Native American blood running through her veins, (2) she confirmed that her great-great-great grandmother actually was Cherokee via new-found historical records, (3) she was making s**t up in a cynical pander to a group of American Indians. Until she actually produces real evidence, my default position is Door #3. Here’s what we do know so far: At best, she is maybe 1/32nd Cherokee, which means that Lizzie Warren is at least 96.9% whitebread and at most 3.1% Native American. More from Turley.
The reference to her career was curious. She admitted to listing herself as a minority and the law school counted her as a minority hire. She affirmatively added herself to that academic listing. Frankly, the suggestion that being a minority hire is not an advantage for either Harvard or Warren is difficult to square. Nevertheless, as I have said before, Warren had an accomplished career as an academic and remains a powerful intellect in the Senate. I do not believe that her hiring or tenure were significantly (or even marginally) influenced by the claim of minority status. She has a well earned national standing as an academic.
However, being a minority hire not only is a benefit to a faculty member and the school. Moreover, minority candidates might object that counting her as a minority impacts real minority candidates seeking positions with the school. Native Americans have also objected to Warren claiming to be Native American.
Warren was listed as a minority faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania as well as Harvard A review of her academic record however does not show references to this background. This includes her record at George Washington University where she started in college. At Rutgers where she went to law school, she affirmatively stated that she was not a minority.
Turley is also right that this only muddies the issue of self-identification in academia. Like with Rachel Dolezal, if you identify as black, then you’re black, facts be damned.
The self-identification controversy is reminiscent of the Rachel Dolezal story. She self-identified as African-American and became a NAACP official. The question is how schools will address diversity reporting if students and faculty are allowed to self-identify as persons of color or minorities. As discussed in the Warren controversy, there is no real standard for faculty claiming minority status in most schools. If Warren is 1/32 Native American, is that sufficient to claim to be Native American. Likewise, there is little ability of a school to seriously question or test such a claim.
It is not clear where this leaves schools as more faculty and students self-identify and yet publish diversity statistics. The Warren controversy is a microcosm of the growing controversy in academia.
Anyways, if it is proven that Lizzie is all of 3.1% Native American, there’s a great opportunity for her in Cleveland since they’re retiring Chief Wahoo, their mascot.