Did Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren’s imagination run amok after watching “Soul Man”? A quarter-century ago, C. Thomas Howell played a spoiled white kid who ingests tanning pills and generously applies Jheri Curl to win a blacks-only scholarship to Harvard Law School. A few years later, a whiter-than-Caspar Warren landed a spot on the prestigious law school’s faculty while claiming the red man’s burden. Life imitates art, and bad art at that.
Warren is supposed to be the Democrats’ great white hope in capturing a U.S. Senate seat from Republicans in 2012. Holding 23 of the 33 seats up for grabs, Democrats have little chance to wrest seats from Republicans in Texas, Mississippi, Utah, and most of the other states where Republicans defend. They know the math adds up, and the geography points, to Massachusetts.
It’s too bad for Elizabeth Warren that she couldn’t get the history right. The professor, and the law school that employs her, had long touted her Native American ancestry. But it turns out that the Senate candidate is about as much a Cherokee as Keep America Beautiful’s ’70s-era “Crying Indian.”
When pressed on her roots, Warren lamely cited family lore as evidence of her Indian background. Warren’s campaign could offer no proof of her minority status until a genealogist discovered a great-great-great grandmother listed as a Cherokee on a marriage certificate. Assuming the five-generations-removed ancestor was a full-blooded Indian, the discovery makes Warren 1/32nd Cherokee.
Harvard Law School highlighted Warren as its first American Indian professor. When the school inevitably came under fire for a lack of faculty diversity, administrators invoked Warren’s heritage. “Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women,” the Harvard Crimson reported in 1996, law school spokesman Mike “Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.” Two years later the paper dubbed Warren “the first woman with a minority background to be tenured” at the law school. Though school spokesmen had once enthusiastically touted Warrren’s background, the present controversy has caused a reassessment. Harvard Law School flak Sarah Marston recently explained to the local press, “The Law School’s current policy is to refrain from publicly commenting about the race or ethnicity of individual faculty members.”
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