No deception in Warren’s Indian ancestry claim
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s professional reputation was established in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania and in Boston at Harvard University. She acclimated to the Northeast so well that Warren was twice elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. However, Warren was born and bred in Oklahoma. Some 65 years ago in her childhood, Oklahoma was not at all like New England. As she explores a campaign for the presidency, it is well for citizens to consider how the character of Oklahoma might have influenced some of her attitudes.
Oklahoma was created in 1890 from part of “The Indian Territory” that was established as the reserve for the Indians forced to evacuate the southern states. Oklahoma was not admitted to the Union until 1907. Some blacks had emigrated there after the end of legal slavery in 1865 to escape Jim Crow in the states of the Confederacy. The prosperous black community in Tulsa incited the envy of whites who were in the process of establishing their primacy in the new state. In 1921, whites attacked the blacks in Tulsa, slaughtered hundreds and burned their community to the ground.
The Battle of Tulsa did not include Native Americans except for those who had joined with blacks. So called Indians were considered to be aborigines involved in what was viewed as a primitive culture. Their social status was generally lower than African Americans 65 years ago. Whites in Oklahoma were no more likely then to assert Indian lineage than were whites in Mississippi to claim a black ancestor.
While it is never possible to be certain about what is in someone else’s mind, it seems that by declaring her Indian lineage Warren is identifying with the unity of all humanity. And she does so
by claiming to be part of the human family that is not so highly regarded. It is no wonder that those who support racial discrimination would ridicule the gesture.
Blacks should not be tricked into believing that Warren’s claim was a con job to enable her to qualify for affirmative action benefits. The superior quality of her academic performance required no special assistance. These days, more and more prominent people are acknowledging their multiracial roots. Warren should certainly suffer no disadvantage because she was one of those willing to do so.