Now some thoughts on how conservatives are making a mountain out of this molehill--playing racial politics with a Native issue:
Elizabeth Warren Finally Teaches a Lesson on Native Identity
By Rob Capriccioso
Donna Akers, a professor with the Department of History and Native American Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is skeptical of the conservative outrage. “I think this is simply a cynical ploy by right-wing propagandists trying to find a piece of mud that sticks against Warren,” she says. Akers believes Republican politicians sometimes use racial issues to divide voters and to play on their insecurities. In this case, she says that the Brown campaign is trying to make it seem like a white person may have lost out on a position due to Warren’s situation. “Smearing Warren by the suggestion that she benefited unfairly by claiming Native ancestry panders to the racism extant in many sectors of the right wing—especially the working class,” Akers says. “The Republican Party today solidly embraces a thinly veiled racist agenda that privileges white Americans at the expense of Native Americans and other peoples of color in the United States.”
The intriguing question to explore, Indian academics say, is whether any Native candidates lost out on a chance to teach at Harvard because Warren was laying claim to an identity she knew very little about. That is a question, of course, that Republicans are not asking. And neither is the mainstream press. “The mainstream media definitely has added to this controversy due to their well-known ignorance about tribal citizenship and other tribal issues,” says Julia Good Fox, a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University. Good Fox notes that the media has largely failed to explain tribal citizenry and blood quantum issues to give context to the situation because these aren’t easy stories to tell. It’s easier to label the case “convoluted,” blame Warren, and move on to the next political gotcha story.
By Lindsey Catherine Cornum
Unfortunately, in defending herself and her choice to list herself as minority professor, Warren has relied on her own reductionist interpretations of Indianness. While she did give a sincere account about the family history she was told and raised on, she has also tried to confirm her Cherokee ancestry by pointing to the high cheekbones of her grandfather. I mean, a part of me gets it. For those of us who do not look Indian enough (which these days requires full-blown regalia or being dead) or those of us who are cut off from our tribal communities, there is a struggle to identify what exactly is Indian about us. That sometimes comes out in misguided generalizations that we know will be understood by the ignorant, Hollywood-fed American public. In many cases those ignorant, Hollywood-based images are some of the only ways we know ourselves what constitutes an authentic Indian.
If Elizabeth Warren hasn’t been a victim of racialized verbal violence before in her life, she certainly is now. Welcome to the good life.
Now that her claims are in doubt, they're attacking her for lying about her identity. For making it up. They refuse to consider the obvious alternative: that she innocently repeated her family stories of being Cherokee until she thought better of it.
There's nothing strange about that. I'm sure most people have repeated stories they couldn't prove about their family history. The difference is, Warren repeated those stories before realizing she'd undergo intense scrutiny while running for public office.
But conservatives don't care about these nuances. Either way, they've attacked her: for being an Indian, or for pretending to be one. The common theme is their fear and hatred of minorities. No other conclusion encompasses the wide variety of attacks.
If you have any doubts, read the labels again: "Pinocchio-hontas," "Chief Full-of-Lies," "Running Joke," etc. No conservative has denounced these labels; many have parroted them. Regardless of Warren's identity, therefore, many conservatives are racists.
For more on the subject, see Elizabeth Warren's Birther Moment and NAJA Criticizes "Disrespectful" Warren Puns.