After the Boston Herald reported that Elizabeth Warren listed herself as “Native American” while she was a professor at Harvard Law School, Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-MA) campaign quickly attacked his Democratic opponent for listing herself as a minority, insinuating that she did so for professional gain. “Prof. Warren needs to come clean about her motivations for making these claims and explain the contradictions between her rhetoric and the record,” said Brown campaign spokesman Jim Barnett.
But Warren, who is likely 1/32 Cherokee (though it’s unclear if her great-great-great grandmother was full-blooded), fought back against Brown’s accusations, saying she grew up discussing her Native American heritage and hoped to meet others who shared similar roots, according to the Boston Herald:
“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. The Harvard Law professor argued she didn’t use her minority status to get her teaching jobs, and slammed her Republican rival U.S. Sen.Scott Brown for suggesting otherwise.
“The only one as I understand it who’s raising any question about whether or not I was qualified for my job is Scott Brown and I think I am qualified and frankly I’m a little shocked to hear anybody raise a question about whether or not I’m qualified to hold a job teaching,” she said, pushing to put Brown on defense. “What does he think it takes for a woman to be qualified?”
Warren is right to be proud of her roots, and it is unfair for Brown’s campaign and others to attack her for it by accusing her of claiming minority status to improve her career. Native Americans faced discrimination and societal pressure to hide their backgrounds for years, and until 2005, Boston even had an antiquated law on the books that banned Native Americans from entering the city.
It is ignorant to attack Warren based on an arbitrary limit on how much Native American blood she has, when the tribe doesn’t even do that themselves. Just like Warren, the chief of the Cherokee Nation is only 1/32 Native American.