By Opinions & Editorials Editor James Mellen
If you’ve been watching the news at any point over the past 6 years, you might have heard someone reference Elizabeth Warren’s claim as a descendant of an Indigenous American. Namely, she claimed to be a descendant from members of the Cherokee and Delaware people. It was made clear that she was lying about these claims when she took a DNA test last year. Earlier this year she publicly apologized to the Cherokee nation for “any damage” that her lie might have caused.
Perhaps the most famous thing about her claim was President Donald Trump’s reaction to it, regularly calling her “Pocahontas”. As a result, much of the news coverage that has been surrounding criticisms of Warren’s claim have made it seem egregious. After all, Donald Trump absolutely does not care about any harm that Warren could have done the indigenous community, he’s just looking for a reason to make a joke at Warren’s expense. With any things in the current Trumpcentric political climate, it is completely necessary to de-frame the conversation away from Donald Trump before any constructive communication can be made. In other words, don’t excuse Warren’s racism because Donald Trump is more racist.
It may be easy to get the impression that Warren first mentioned being Indigenous during her 2012 senate race against Scott Brown. However this isn’t the case and the first documented case of Elizabeth Warren falsely claiming to be Cherokee (that I can find) was in the 1984 Pow Wow Chow cookbook, where she wrote supposed family indigenous recipes to be published. These recipes where plagiarized nearly word for word out of a popular New York Times recipe. It is worth noting that no other person in her family submitted recipes to this cookbook. It is further worth noting that stealing recipes from the New York times is pretty good reason to believe that she knowingly lied about her indigenous heritage. I’m a Greek American and I don’t need to consult the New York Times to make Spanakopita.
The next time that Elizabeth Warren’s false indigenous status became a prominent part of her life was during her time as a law professor. It is unlikely that her fake indigenous status helped her receive any jobs teaching law, however she was listed in the Harvard magazine Crimson had her listed as an example of ethnic diversity in the law school faculty.
While a lie, one feature of Warren’s story has been fairly consistent over the past 40 years, that her mother and father had to elope out of fear of her father’s family’s reaction to his marriage to an indigenous woman. Both the newspaper records and the DNA test that Warren took (which showed she may have had an indigenous ancestor between 6 and 10 generations back) suggest that this isn’t the case, and that the story was completely fabricated. No other member of Warren’s family has supported this claim either.
Warren is not the only non-minority candidate in the race attempting to code as non-white. “Beto” O’Rourke changed his first name from Robert “Beto” in an attempt to make it seem like he learned Spanish at home and not at college. Joe Biden won’t let the American public forget that he was vice president to the first Black president in history, or more recently a lifeguard in a majority Black swimming pool.
Even smaller name democrats like Bill De Blasio have lied about their ethnicity in order to gain votes. De Blasio’s real name is Warren Willhelm but wanted to sound more Italian for the New York mayor race. This type of poor race relations are arguably better than the race relations of candidates like Pete Buttipeg who lets cops murder Black people in the South Bend without any repercussions. However, they are nowhere near actually socially left candidates like Julian Castro or Bernie Sanders, both of whom have the potential to change the history of the president’s cabinet forever. With Castro having the potential to be the first Hispanic president and Sanders having the potential to be the first Jewish president.