Dolezal ahead of her time? The "Pretendian" wave in Academia

AP Photo/Steven Senne

While the Supreme Court tackles the question of affirmative action in admissions, the perverse incentives have generated another type of perverse outcome. The College Fix reported last week about the wave of “Pretendians,” or what we have called “Fauxcohontas” posturing in the case of Elizabeth Warren. A rise in unsubstantiated claims of Native American ancestry have begun to plague faculties in Academia:


AncestorStealing, a website that has researched and outed a parade of alleged fake Indians, argues it’s done for notoriety, profit and gain: “It’s all about the money. Wurth has profited greatly from claiming this ‘Native’ background.”

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was ahead of her time when she wrongly claimed to be Native American to get ahead at Harvard University in the 1990s — a string of white scholars in the last several years have all done the same at their respective universities.

There’s men in the mix, but many women. The trend expands beyond academia to artists and others, but academia appears to be ground zero. It’s become so common in recent years terms such as “pretendians” and “fauxcahontas” have now been coined.

Yesterday, editor Jennifer Kabbany joined me to discuss the article and the rise in unfounded claims. The College Fix article argues that this rebuts the “white privilege” argument made by CRT enthusiasts; does it, or does affirmative action in hiring create another layer of perverse incentives?

All of this reminds both Jennifer and I of the Rachel Dolezal controversy, as well as the current Academia philosophy that identity is a matter of personal choice when it comes to biological sex. Even eight years ago, I point out, Dolezal justified her posturing as a black woman — who wound up running a local NAACP chapter in Washington — because, as she told Matt Lauer, she “identifies as black.” Was she just ahead of her time? If biology has nothing to do with sexual identity, can anyone argue that it has a role in ethnic identity? And if so, what does that do to the entire edifice of affirmative action in both admissions and faculty hiring, especially in Academia?


On top of that, as we both discuss, this also has implications for Native American tribes and their legal authority to identify members of their own tribes. But that has some perverse incentives in play too, especially in the tribal-casino era. A friend of mine and of the site, whom we call the Original Pechanga, has been fighting against disenrollment tactics of his tribe as everyone fights over the spoils of the casino revenue.

Update: I neglected to link to OP’s blog, but I’ve added it now.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024