Last night, we were talking about that column in the NYT where lawprof Kevin Noble Maillard — who identifies himself as an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma — informed us that for "the Cherokee Nation, Warren is 'Indian enough;' she has the same blood quantum as Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker." He said:
For non-Natives, this may be surprising. They expect to see 'high cheekbones,' as Warren described her grandfather as having, or tan skin. They want to know of pow wows, dusty reservations, sweat lodges, peyote and cheap cigarettes. When outsiders look at these ostensibly white people as members of Native America, they don’t see minorities. As a result, Warren feels she must satisfy these new birthers and justify her existence.He also portrayed Native American lawprofs as such a small group — 0.5% of all lawprofs — that they'd all know about it — and enthuse about it — if one of them had gotten appointed at Harvard, and that didn't happen.
There are so many issues here. Instapundit brings up 2:
1. "The whole blood-quantum thing is a white man's criterion." (More on that here.)
2. "[T]he interesting part isn’t that she checked the Native American box; it’s that she unchecked it once it wouldn’t do her any more good. And that’s not a fake controversy"
Let me add some more issues:
3. These days tribes control the standards of who gets in, but what are their purposes? There are ideas about sovereignty, connected to political power and autonomy, but how can this definition carry over to other contexts and support affirmative action? A technical, genetic standard isn't narrowly tailored to notions about the benefits of "diversity," especially if no one can see or is even informed about who's supposed to be bringing the diversity.
4. Having a Native American faculty member is a point of pride for Harvard. It claims credit. But maybe it doesn't really have anyone behind that claim. Note the potential for collusion between a law school and faculty members who can plausibly be claimed to beef up the diversity statistic. The school may not really know or want to know the truth. It just hopes to get away with reporting a number that works to its credit. It's like the way law schools want to hear from their graduates that they have law jobs with good pay. They want to report that information to U.S. News to get better rank on the "Best Law Schools" list. If it's good for them, they'd rather not have to look into whether it's true. It's good. Who cares if it's true?
5. Elizabeth Warren claimed that she had herself listed in the AALS directory as a minority lawprof because she was hoping to get included in group of people like her. Professor Maillard assures NYT readers that Native American lawprofs are a close-knit group who know each other and support and take pride in each other. With such warm and welcoming arms outstretched, how is it that Warren never found her way into that group? One cynical theory is that Warren didn't really want to have to face them, because they might have questioned her authenticity. But that would mean she really did go on the list to make contact with appointments committees who would pull her up to a higher ranked school. And of course, that theory connects neatly with the point made at #2, supra: She unchecked the box once she got to Harvard.
6. Why did Maillard gratuitously insult those of us who are trying to figure this out by bringing up "high cheekbones, "tan skin," "pow wows, dusty reservations, sweat lodges, peyote and cheap cigarettes"? The abuse of affirmative action is a serious issue, and people who worry about it are not trading in old-fashioned stereotypes. It's more like Maillard is stereotyping us as backward and dumb. If that's intentional pushback, it ought to motivate us to look more deeply into the problem at hand. I'm not pushed back. That would be dumb.