The Affirmative Action Racket

One of the obvious questions prompted by the public recognition that Elizabeth Warren’s claimed Native American ancestry is what it takes for someone to avail themselves of the preferential treatment afforded to racial and cultural minorities in hiring–and in particular, can someone assert the identity if they are only 1/32 and have absolutely no cultural ties, such as tribal membership.  (I say “public recognition” because I first heard this a decade ago but I certainly didn’t realize that she was only 1/32 Native American with no cultural tie.)  Warren herself, when originally asked about it, simply said that it was part of her “family lore,” indicating how little care she had put into classifying herself accurately.

To put it another way, would Warren’s 1/32 blood from her great-great-great grandmother, with no other discernible cultural links count for most university preference plans?  Hans Bader, who has worked on a number of such cases, is skeptical (he also notes David’s previous post on this).

I should also hasten to add that although Harvard frequently touted her Native American ancestry (Warren says she never authorized Harvard to claim her as a minority hire although Harvard must’ve gotten the information from somewhere) that does not necessarily mean that was a determining factor in Harvard’s decision to hire her, even if it was a consideration for her stepping-stone law school positions.  By that time she was a well-established commercial law scholar, certainly to the point where it seems plausible would not need to claim Native American background in order to receive a preferential boost to be hired (although obviously I don’t share the general enthusiasm for her work).

Update: Hans has updated and corrected his post so I’ve deleted the block quote that has been superseded and for those who want to read the specifics you can click through the link.

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