Scott Brown is going after Elizabeth Warren for supposedly trading, falsely, on flimsy evidence, on her Cherokee heritage: as though Elizabeth Warren is the most brazen of liars and a clear affirmative action hire (as though that, in itself, is proof of incompetence… how racist can you get Mr Brown??) Browns charge, such as it is, consists of the elliptical notion that she gamed the system to her advantage and, bonus, robbed some deserving minority of the chance to move forward.
But here’s the thing I don’t get: for the duration of the time that Elizabeth Warren “checked the box” for Native American heritage she was…
…wait for it…
… ALREADY A MINORITY!!! As a women, Elizabeth Warren, was already a rarity, not just in the legal profession but in academia, and particularly at law schools. EW earned her JD in 1976, just 5 years before Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female supreme court justice. The next female wouldn’t arrive until Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed, 12 years later.
So why, in the vast scheme of things, would anyone, much less EW, come to the conclusion that, in order to better her chances, she must needs invent, out of whole cloth, Cherokee and Delaware heritage? It’s absurd: sorta like when a sitting US Senator feels the need to burnish his credentials with references to backdoor meetings with kings and queens… Oh wait…
Apparently, that’s how Scott Brown thinks: if the system can be gamed, so his neuronal abstractions hint, it has to be gamed and will be gamed and good for those doing the gaming… just don’t get caught.
Must be a nice world to live in…
My mother graduated college in 1962 with an extra-ordinarily well defined career path: she studied to be a teacher. This course of study was one of exactly two (2) courses of study afforded her: the other being nursing. These two choices were two thirds of the spectrum of total choices available to her: as a young woman she was told (yes, forthrightly told, I’m not being colloquial here…) that she could grow up to be a teacher, a nurse or a mother.
That was it. I retain vivid recollections of the entire Irish-Catholic side of my family descending upon the ancestral manse one mid-70′s summer for the sole purpose of talking her out of taking a job that was not included in the above, approved, list of career choices. Pressure on women to conform was, throughout the 70′s and 80′s, remarkably intense. I know. I was there. I’m continually reminding my boys that here, today and now, is a vastly different world. Elizabeth Warren, apparently, was too busy touting her Cherokee heritage to notice.
Nor, must it be said, was ‘affirmative action’ (whatever it is Scott Brown thinks he means by that…) anything near settled law: It wasn’t like minority status was an automatic conference of professorship. At the time Elizabeth Warren began her collegiate career (she spent some time as a grade school teacher… Gee? Ya think?”) the landmark case (ruling against minority set-asides) was Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, decided in 1978 and which reflected the general attitude towards affirmative action and minority hiring. Elizabeth Warren must possess a special brilliance to forsee that Cherokee heritage would help… rather than hurt… her chances. But from the perspective of the 80′s and 90′s, when the number of women who served in the Senate at any one time could be counted on one hand and women could not participate in combat operations, being a women was no guarantee of anything and claiming Cherokee heritage wasn’t completely upside.
1976 saw the release of the movie (one of my favorites) “The Outlaw Josie Wales” (Oh, Clint… how the mighty have fallen…) which garnered great praise from Native Americans (even some Cherokees!) for it’s sympathetic, and non-stereotypical, portrayal of Native Americans (Chief Dan George, you rock…)
This is the world that Elizabeth Warren was navigating when she first ‘checked the box’. Why, or indeed how, would she make the leap from a world like that to the notion that Cherokee heritage would be a plus in academia?
Scott Brown would like you to forget that, in the not too distant past, real and active prejudice held absolute sway: against women: against Native Americans: against anyone not a white male. He’d rather have you think that affirmative action hires occur in a vacuum and for no other reason than that white people are benevolent and giving. He’d like you to think that Elizabeth Warren got where she got because some benevolent white male put her there… not because he was forced to do so… but purely out of Noblesse Oblige and some equally noble abstraction of meritocracy. Furthermore, he’d like you to believe that Elizabeth Warren took unfair advantage of this benevolence in a rank display of unfettered, and undeserved, ambition.
Sadly, it appears, Scott Brown can’t see Elizabeth Warren through this fog of type and categories and games and one-upsman-ship that he inhabits. Unfortunately, for us and for him, that makes him stone cold sexist.