The Washington Post

Elizabeth Warren’s needless ‘Native American’ problem

“The Fix” says Elizabeth Warren has a “Native American problem.” It’s more like a campaign problem. If the promising challenger to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) can’t beat back easy-to-answer questions about her heritage, how on earth will she be able to handle weightier questions?

According to the Boston Herald, Warren was billed as a Native American employee by Harvard Law School in the 1990s. And the professor proactively described herself as minority in the Association of American Law Schools directory between 1986 and 1995. The implication in these stories is that Warren used minority status to advance her career.

But here’s the thing. Warren does indeed have Native American ancestry. A genealogist uncovered an 1894 document showing Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother listed as Cherokee. And that Boston Herald report quotes a campaign strategist saying, “Like most Americans, Elizabeth learned of her heritage through conversations with her grandparents, her parents, and her aunts and uncles.” Sure, it’s visually perplexing to look at Warren, who could be cast as June Cleaver in another time, and think she’s linked to Native Americans. But it’s not like she’s lying or shading the truth.

“The simple fact is that Elizabeth is proud of her heritage,” Warren’s campaign spokeswoman said two days ago.

So why does this non-issue require so much attention? America is a melting pot of blended families and cultural identities. That Warren’s mix is as complicated as a lot of other Americans shouldn’t be a liability, and I wish she’d stop acting like it is.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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