File this one under things I should have said instead of taking a DNA test. In a commencement speech this morning at a historically black university, Elizabeth Warren tried to position herself as a policymaker whose agenda benefits people of color. While doing so, however, Warren acknowledged that she doesn’t qualify for membership:
Acknowledging that she is “not a person of color,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sought Friday to make the case that her liberal policy prescriptions stand to benefit minority communities, which would be key to her fate in a 2020 presidential bid.
“As a country, we need to stop pretending that the same doors open for everyone, because they don’t,” Warren said in a commencement address at Morgan State University, a historically black institution. “I’m not a person of color. And I haven’t lived your life or experienced anything like the subtle prejudice, or more overt harm, that you may have experienced just because of the color of your skin.”
Her speech comes as Warren is mulling a White House bid and trying to regain her footing after stoking outrage on the left by releasing a DNA test in October intended to prove she has Native American ancestry. The test angered some minority leaders who found it offensive that she would use genetics to prove ethnicity.
Wouldn’t it have been smarter to just say that from the very beginning? Warren spent years defining herself as Native American, relying on “family lore” and telling stories about discrimination that her parents faced. Specifically, Warren claimed her parents had to elope to avoid discrimination based on her mother’s Cherokee identity, a story that hasn’t stood up to scrutiny — and certainly doesn’t comport with the findings of Warren’s infamous DNA test.
That claim emerged after reporters started digging up evidence that suggested she had tried to benefit professionally from her native heritage and her status as a “woman of color”:
Elizabeth Warren has pushed back hard on questions about a Harvard Crimson piece in 1996 that described her as Native American, saying she had no idea the school where she taught law was billing her that way and saying it never came up during her hiring a year earlier, which others have backed up.
But a 1997 Fordham Law Review piece described her as Harvard Law School’s “first woman of color,” based, according to the notes at the bottom of the story, on a “telephone interview with Michael Chmura, News Director, Harvard Law (Aug. 6, 1996).”
The mention was in the middle of a lengthy and heavily-annotated Fordham piece on diversity and affirmative action and women. The title of the piece, by Laura Padilla, was “Intersectionality and positionality: Situating women of color in the affirmative action dialogue.”
As late as this past February, Warren was claiming to have the exclusion experience that she now admits she didn’t have at all. At that time, she pledged to use her family’s story to highlight the stories of fellow people “of color”:
Our stories are deeply woven into the fabric of who we are. The stories of immigrants and slaves, of explorers and refugees, have shaped and reshaped our country right up to the present day. For far too long, your story has been pushed aside, to be trotted out only in cartoons and commercials.
So I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.
There’s much more to cite, such as Warren’s participation in a cookbook that featured Native Americans (“Pow Wow Chow,” using copied recipes) that demonstrate her attempts to position herself as a woman of color. Warren intended to establish her bona fides on that point once and for all with the DNA test and then claimed to have succeeded, but blew up in her face — both on its results and in using that method in the first place. Had she made any real connections with Native American communities, Warren would have known that they discern identity through genealogy and membership, not DNA — which is unreliable in identifying Native Americans anyway.
Having suffered a massive public rebuke from friend and foe alike as a poseur, Warren wants to turn the corner to make a run for the Democratic presidential nomination. She has to put this to bed somehow, and burying this admission in an address at a historically black university would probably be the best opportunity she has to do so. She’s running, and she’s running away at the same time.
Will it work? Only if Warren admits to exploiting those claims for professional advancement, which was clearly what she did and why Harvard was so anxious to promote her. She’s run away from that, too.