Good ol' Rex.
The shame of Fauxcohontas
When is a politician toast — done-on-both-sides, pass-the-butter-and-jam toast? Well, one hint might be when you show up on blogs and in newspapers photoshopped as the Lone Ranger’s great Indian sidekick Tonto. Another might be when thousands of people spend hours making up sarcastic names for you, such as “Fauxcohontas,” or more brutally, “Dances with Lies.”
This is the unfortunate lot of Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat running for a senate seat in Ted Kennedy’s old district. During the course of the campaign it was revealed that Ms. Warren had listed her minority status in law school faculty directories, and that no less than the Harvard Crimson in 1998 declared in print that: “Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American.”
There is no need, thankfully, to go into all the back and forth this has excited. The key points are that Ms. Warren, on the campaign trail and after some initial confusion, vehemently denied “using” her minority heritage to get hired at any university, let alone Harvard. But she still wanted to make very clear her intense pride in her “native heritage.”
She knew she was native American, or part native American, because it was “family lore” that her great-great-great grandmother — “like all Indians” — had “high cheek bones.” She laughably claims she only listed herself as “minority” in those law directories in the hopes of grabbing a “lunch” with “others like her.”
“Like her”? Her family’s lore, if accepted as fact, makes her at most 1/32nd native. How useful can it possibly be to be 1/32nd of anything while searching for a dining companion of similar status? When dealing with fractions so small, breaking bread with a total stranger still almost guarantees at least one thing in common. How wonderful for her to enjoy such an abundance of choice when seeking comfortably familiar lunch-time acquaintances.
This bizarre comedy highlights the ugly absurdity that arises when people, or institutions, become so absorbed with the question of race that it eclipses their common sense. But what’s perhaps most telling is how all involved — the candidate herself, the faculties and administrations of various law schools, everyone — step back in pure shock, nay, horror, from the very notion that Elizabeth Warren may have been hired for any other reason than her professional qualifications. Race? Nothing to do with it. Minority hire? Never!
Everybody acting like affirmative action hires are something to be ashamed of and denied, something rudely pushed aside as unthinkable, is baffling. In every other context, affirmative action and its attendant policies and protocols are looked upon as the secular world’s highest forms of public virtue. Companies and institutions boast about their so-called equity policies and minority placements. Does not every university, in every hire, on every bulletin board, and in every online notice — spell out every so proudly that applications from minorities and special groups will be given “special” attention, or are specifically urged to hire. Does this not right historical wrongs? Is this not part of enriching the educational experience?
And yet, any suggestion that a particular individual may have benefitted from these wonders of our modern age is treated as a slap in the face to said individual. How can a policy be a triumph in enactment but an insult in execution?
I think it’s because, at the highest levels of the educational system, even those who ostensibly support the policy know it’s hollow and false, or at least that it has outgrown what tenuous utility or point it might once have had. Even the systems that use affirmative action, the employers who trot it out so ostentatiously, and the politicians who continue to maintain it, know also that it constitutes a form of inequity in itself.
Perhaps, finally, people are waking up to the idea of how pernicious it is to see individuals — in all their scattered, singular, unrepeatable, distinct and uniquely shaped lives — only through the lens of some static racial or historical construct. We steal from the glory of individuals as individuals when we broker their careers or their lives through this blunt and reductive category of group identity.
Whatever becomes of Warren’s election bid, this episode has, I think, fatally wounded the hitherto unquestioned status of affirmative action. It has revealed it as open to corruption, and something that even successful people deny if it involves them. The story of Fauxcohontas may have some value beyond pure laughter after all.
shamelessly copied from:
Elizabeth Warren: The shame of Fauxcohontas | Full Comment | National Post