I’m Seeing Red

When Elizabeth Warren claimed to be a Cherokee Indian, a lot of folks were skeptical. Even the President challenged her on her racial assertions. He stated that, if she could prove she was an Indian, he’d give one million dollars to her favorite charity. Finally, the Boston Globe called her out on it and pushed her to get a DNA test to prove her proclamations.

I didn’t think she’d do it, but there it is—out there for all the world to see. She is 1/1024th Native American. I’m not sure if she thinks this is vindication for her position, but I’d be a tad skeptical about that. Frankly, however, I couldn’t care less.

I think the real question is one that most people are missing. I’ve heard only one commentator even mention this in passing. If white privilege is so pervasive in our culture, why would anyone try to pass themselves off as someone from another race? In Warren’s case, she apparently decided this would enhance her career. It seems to have worked, because, for a long time, she was touted as Harvard law school faculty’s first female person of color. From what I can gather, she made a lot of money for her institution with that status.

Person of Color (Red)

Now, with her DNA test results, we finally know that the claim was true. Well, it was true if 1/1024th qualifies. Who’s to say? Harvard, I guess.

I’m not in a position to judge the good Senator. Even if she did it to perpetrate a hoax on us all, I’m no better. There have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve pretended to be something (or someone) I’m not. The older I get, the less I find myself doing that, but it certainly has happened.

Even if I had never done that, judging someone else is seldom a good idea. Actually, it might never be a good idea. Jesus, in fact, informed us that we should avoid judging others unless we were prepared to be on the other end of that judgment. In the same passage, he made his famous statement about removing the log from your own eye before you attempt to get the speck out of someone else’s optical orb. If I’m going to take Jesus seriously, I guess any judgment of Ms. Warren on my part is out of line.

“Seneca, I Believe”

I can’t help but be interested in her claim to be from an Indian tribe, however. I’m actually married to a woman whose heritage includes a bit of Native American (Seneca, I believe). I keep urging her to go get a piece of the casino pie, but that’s a story for another day.

I guess Warren’s worst sin (if there is one) would be what our society likes to call “cultural appropriation.” In a recent poll, however, we discovered that the bulk of the American Indian population doesn’t care about political correctness (which is what cultural appropriation is). Still, they’re seeing red when it comes to Warren’s political maneuvering.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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