Why did Elizabeth Warren lie about being Cherokee? Why did she classify herself as “Native American” as a member of the Harvard Law School faculty? There’s a lot of discussion this week about her ethnicity, but few people are asking the obvious question.
Why would she lie about something so ridiculous?
Warren lied — and continues to lie — because she is held captive by an evil idea. It’s an evil idea which is at the root of progressive left politics today. It’s called “identity politics.” It’s the idea that your group identity gives you worth and identifies your values. It’s a core value of the collectivist — and it stands in stark contrast to the notion that every individual has value of his own, regardless of his ethnicity or origin or skin color or any other group identity.
Identity politics is the enemy of individual liberty. It always will be. But let’s start with the facts of Warren’s case.
I couldn’t care less whether Elizabeth Warren has a Native American ancestor or not. It’s an idiotic controversy and it always has been. But if you’ll take the time to understand the reasons for her lie, you will understand a foundational error in progressive left thinking.
Warren classified herself as a minority — as a Native American — in a listing of Harvard law professors starting in the 1980s. This came to light in 2012 when she was running for the U.S. Senate. The Boston Herald uncovered her claim to be Native American and debunked it. At the time, Warren pretended Harvard classified her as Native American without her input, but she eventually admitted it was her decision.
For the last six years, conservatives have poked fun of her lie by calling her Pocahontas or “Fauxahontas.” Donald Trump didn’t originate this attack, but he picked up on it in his 2016 campaign, leading a lot of media people today to think he started it. (Strangely, some people claim it was “racist” to attack Warren on these grounds, but nothing about that charge was ever logical.)
This week, Warren has made a big deal of a DNA test which concludes that she had a Native American ancestor — possibly South American, at that — “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” That doesn’t make her a Native American. That is a tiny thing that contributed to her DNA maybe hundreds of years ago. Almost every American whose family has been on this continent for awhile has at least a little bit of Native American ancestry.
But even though Warren has no more Native American ancestry than the average white American, she claimed identity as a Native American. This was a lie and the DNA test doesn’t change that.
She’s a garden-variety white woman with almost exclusively European ancestry. There’s nothing wrong with that. She simply lied to classify herself as Native American. Nothing about this report changes that. It’s a dumb controversy, but the fact remains that she lied.
So why did she lie?
Warren lied because of the progressive left idea that group identity matters more than individual identity. You are supposed to have value — and your politics are supposed to be determined by — your group identity. If you are a black man or woman, your values are supposed to be determined by the political ideas and policies adopted by your ethnic group. This is why any person whose ancestry was African is called an “Uncle Tom” if he dares to have different political values than those which his group “leaders” tell him are his. If you are a white man or woman, you are supposed to have guilt assigned to you by virtue of being white.
The politics of group identity threatens to roll back centuries of progress for individual liberty — and the people manning the barricades for identity politics couldn’t care less.
You cannot adopt the ideas behind identity politics and still think for yourself. You can’t be an individual. If you are a lesbian woman with African ancestry, that identity — as a lesbian and as a black woman — is supposed to determine who you are and what your values are.
And this is why Warren claimed to be a Native American. In the circles of progressive politics, you have extra value if you can identify as a member of an oppressed group. Even if your life has been privileged and comfortable, you get “double bonus points” for claiming such an identity label.
Claiming to be Native American allowed Warren to claim to be the only Native American law professor on the Harvard faculty. The lie allowed the law school to claim a minority when it was accused of being “too white.” Being a Native American gave Warren extra political value in the eyes of her friends and allies, even though it was nothing but a lie.
(During the same period, Warren contributed some recipes to a Native American recipe book called “Pow Wow Chow.” At least three of her recipes are word-for-word copies of recipes from a French cookbook.)
I’m so sick of identity politics that I don’t even like to think in terms of belonging to groups anymore — male, white, straight, Christian, whatever. I am who I am. I am not a representative of some group. Nobody speaks for me.
I’m not responsible for defending or attacking or explaining someone who others might like to group me with. I will treat others as individuals — with as much love and kindness and fairness and honesty as I can muster. (Sometimes I can be short on love and kindness, but I’m still working on it.)
I am responsible for myself — my actions, my thoughts, my loves, my insecurities and my foibles — not for those of anybody else. You can group people as you see fit — including me — but I reject any theory or idea that makes me responsible for anybody’s actions but my own.
You and I have value as individuals, not because someone has placed us into political groups which have value or guilt according to their political beliefs.
Elizabeth Warren bought into the idea — consciously or unconsciously — that she had more value if she could be Native American. This idea is a cancer and it’s destroying individual liberty.
All politicians lie, so Warren’s lie about being Native American is certainly no worse than the ones that Donald Trump, for instance, spews every day. The problem with this entire controversy isn’t that she lied, but why she lied.
Yes, she lied and she continues to double down on the lie. But the worst part is that it shows what she believes. It shows that she believes people have value because of belonging to some group or other, not because of their value as individuals.
Warren’s political ideas are dangerous. You should be scared of her, not because she lied, but because she represents an idea which believes you have value only as a part of groups which she and her friends define.
If you believe in individual liberty, you should be scared of Elizabeth Warren, not because she told an easily disproved lie, but because everything about her politics represents an attack on your liberty.