I have taken to these pages in the past to defend practices that progressives pejoratively call “cultural appropriation.” By now we all know the phrase and that it refers to people (mainly white people) using elements of foreign cultures including costumes, music, food, or, frankly, anything without permission. In most cases the outrage over cultural appropriation is silly, but this week Sen. Elizabeth Warren has opened herself to a charge of cultural appropriation that seems a bit more serious. Will the left hold her to account? Or will her politics earn her a pass?
We now know through Warren’s DNA test that she is about 1/1000 Native American (either from North or South America), or roughly as Native American as Chief Wahoo. During her academic career, Warren changed the identification of her race from white to Native American on the basis of family legends about an Indian ancestor.
Warren didn’t wear a headdress for Halloween or don the jersey of a certain subpar NFL team from Washington DC. She claimed to be of Indian descent to the extent that she described it as her racial identity. Whether it was her intent or not, she did so in a way that was quite likely to increase her professional opportunities. She didn’t appropriate some aspect of Indian culture; she appropriated the whole thing.
While most cases of cultural appropriation are criticized for offending actual members of the culture being appropriated, Warren’s might really have created less opportunity for actual Native Americans. Harvard University was pleased enough at having hired its first “Native American” to the faculty of its law school, and made a bit of a big deal about it. Had Warren not claimed such ancestry, might the job have gone to an actual Native American rather than a woman with about as much claim to it as an actor on “F Troop”?
That Warren thinks her DNA test exonerates her is somewhat hard to believe. Does anyone really think that, in identifying one’s race in a professional setting where it may affect hiring, being 1/1,000 of any race qualifies a person for those advantages? The whole point of those advantages, whether one agrees or disagrees with their use, is to help marginalized people overcome systemic disadvantages. Did Warren’s family legend of Indian blood disadvantage her in some way? It’s hard to see how. (Read more from “Is Elizabeth Warren Guilty of Cultural Appropriation?” HERE)