This essay followed Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test, in which she refuted the Tar Baby in Chief mocking her relentlessly as “Pocahontas.”
It’s Monday morning. I open up my Twitter feed and see the video Elizabeth Warren made to answer charges made by Donald Trump, taken up by Trump enthusiasts everywhere, that she has pretended to be a Native American.
I thought: this video is pretty good.
However, by afternoon, a full-fledged controversy over Warren’s claims about her family history had emerged once more. Perhaps she intended it to, a way of inoculating herself from a persistent distraction prior to what everyone believes will be a 2020 presidential candidacy. Or maybe, as Masha Gessen wrote at The New Yorker, Warren has only “allowed herself to be dragged into a conversation based on an outdated, harmful concept of racial blood — one that promotes the pernicious idea of biological differences among people — and she has pulled her supporters right along with her.”
I happen to be one of those supporters, but that is irrelevant. What is not irrelevant is that by making the video, Warren has taken on several difficult subjects other than Donald Trump’s personality disorder. One is American hostility towards affirmative action, something that can take the form of lawsuits (Harvard is fighting one now) or, more routinely, casual slurs against people of color that imply they have used race to “get ahead.” In fact, one argument that conservatives make about affirmative action is that it not only excludes “better qualified” candidates, but that it also harms gifted people of color by making their achievements appear to be unearned. This is why, they insist, talking about race at all is racist.
For the rest of this essay, published at Public Seminar on October 17 2018, click here.