Elizabeth Warren, civil rights trailblazer

by La Shawn Barber
Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at 5:11 pm

Did Harvard University hire the blond, blue-eyed Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. Senate candidate in Massachusetts, because she claimed to be an American Indian?

That's what members of the Massachusetts Republican Party want to know. They've called for Harvard to investigate whether Warren's supposed racial minority status played a role in her recruitment. Warren, who is challenging Sen. Scott Brown for his seat, listed herself as Native American in legal directories but said she was hired on merit. Columnist Michael Barone said Warren identified as an Indian at previous schools where she taught.

Warren said she claimed Native American ancestry to meet people with similar roots. Did she mean actual American Indians or other blue-eyed blondes with an Indian great-great-great-grandparent?

But for "affirmative action," more accurately known as race- and sex-based preferences, Warren wouldn't have done something so obviously ridiculous. That her great-great-great-grandmother might have been a Cherokee doesn't make her an Indian any more than my supposed Indian great-great-great-grandfather makes me one. (Although I'm not an American Indian, I am a native American, as I was born in America.)

Racial preferences typically isn't a hot topic. I should know. I've written about the condescending and unfair policy for nine years and recently blogged for an organization dedicated to eradicating racial preferences from the government. Yes, our government is a racial bean counter. Shocking, I know. As The Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley notes, racial and ethnic preferences make a mockery of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in my view, the entire civil rights movement.

Race-based admissions and hiring practices stand in stark contrast to the landmark legislation. The law's intent was to end racial discrimination in public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, theaters, etc.) and programs that receive federal funds. Over the years, unfortunately, the law has been subverted as the government seeks to increase "minority representation" (blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, etc.) by discriminating against whites and non-preferred minorities (Asians).

The policy that plays racial favorites evolved from President Richard M. Nixon's directive to the Department of Labor to set specific goals and timetables to correct the "underutilization" of blacks by federal contractors. The government began to lower hiring standards and never stopped. Fast forward to 2012. Although federal law bars racial discrimination, the U.S. Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) interpreted the law to allow it. But the court might rectify its nine-year-old mistake in a case it agreed to hear, Fisher v. Texas, in which the plaintiffs allege the University of Texas rejected their applications because they're white.

That our government favors some and penalizes others based on skin color is an obvious problem. Less obvious is the doubt the policy creates in those who "benefit." At colleges with race-based admissions policies, how do blacks know they were admitted based on merit and not skin color? Sadly, some don't seem to care and probably believe the government owes them because their ancestors were slaves and/or lived under Jim Crow. I wonder if the people who died fighting for a race-neutral government would agree.

La Shawn Barber

La Shawn is a former WORLD columnist.

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