Elizabeth Warren camp: Her great-great-great-grandmother was Cherokee

Yesterday I thought this story was small potatoes but revealing as an insight into how far Warren might go to gild her resume with a diversity credential. After this, though, I’m honestly interested in hearing her address it. What’s the threshold of “minority” status in her mind? Are we back to the “one drop” rule or is 1/32 juuuuuuust enough for a shot of authenticity whereas 1/64 is a bridge too far? Actually, maybe those standards aren’t so different: When you’re talking about a great-great-great-grandparent, one drop is about all that’s left.

Ace notes that the premise behind diversity hiring is that a minority employee brings a perspective that whites simply can’t. Another premise, a la affirmative action, is that a minority employee deserves special consideration because he/she had to cope with cultural disadvantages that whites haven’t. Is Liz Warren claiming that she’s in either of those boats? Can’t wait for this press conference.

Desperately scrambling to validate Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage amid questions about whether she used her minority status to further her career, the Harvard Law professor’s campaign last night finally came up with what they claim is a Cherokee connection — her great-great-great-grandmother.

“She would be 1⁄32nd of Elizabeth Warren’s total ancestry,” noted genealogist Christopher Child said, referring to the candidate’s great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, who is listed on an Oklahoma marriage certificate as Cherokee. Smith is an ancestor on Warren’s mother’s side, Child said…

Meanwhile, Warren’s camp issued statements from five faculty members at the four universities where she’s taught, including Harvard Law School and University of Pennsylvania, to knock down any suggestion she used her Native American background to get hired.

“To suggest that she needed some special advantage to be hired here or anywhere is just silly. She was hired for her great abilities as a teacher and a scholar. Her family tree had nothing to do with it,” wrote Jay Westbrook, chairman of the business law school at the University of Texas at Austin, who hired Warren.

The same genealogist also discovered that one of Warren’s great-grandfathers, although white, did live for a time in Cherokee territory, which makes him … kind of minority, I guess? Good enough for her to claim 1.5/32 status?

Three lingering questions here. One, as noted yesterday: Why did Warren stop describing herself as minority circa 1995? What changed? Two: Why did she start describing herself as a minority circa 1986? If she didn’t have hard documentation until literally yesterday that she was part Native American, what evidence was she relying on to claim that distinction in the first place? “Grandma told me I might be part Cherokee” doesn’t cut it, I hope, when we’re talking about criteria that qualify as a competitive advantage in one’s profession. You need proof, or at least you should. Three, via Ann Althouse: Why does Warren’s campaign seem so impressed by the fact that her previous employers are willing to say her ancestry played no role in hiring her? Of course they’re going to say that. If they don’t, they know it’ll be interpreted by the public as an admission that she was graded on a curve in the hiring process. Either embrace diversity hiring as a glorious fair-minded policy or don’t, but don’t try to have it both ways.

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