Elizabeth Warren's embarrassing self-own

But there are more serious reasons than message discipline to push back against this kind of nonsense. The attempt to define membership in a community on the basis of a small amount of genetic data seems cheapening to say the least. One would expect a progressive like Warren to be aware of the poverty, crime, and addiction on Indian reservations in her home state of Oklahoma and elsewhere. Warren’s resilience in the face of other hardships make her professional and political success admirable in its own right, but the brutalization of the American Indian is one of the great crimes of history. For a woman who has not shared in their plight to claim Native American ancestry seems to me a kind of stolen valor. Doubling down on it in response to schoolyard taunts exacerbates the problem.

More worrying still, Warren’s response also harkens back, no doubt unintentionally, to the era of the so-called “one-drop rule,” according to which a man or a woman would be considered black under law if he or she had even a single remote ancestor of African descent. At a time when “scientific” racism sees to be making a comeback in some right-wing circles, the last thing this country needs is a national conversation about race that hinges upon the binary question of whether a person with one untraceable antecedent who was not Caucasian should really be considered white or something — anything — else.