Musings on Heritage

18 Oct

Same as the last one <grin>

One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths is his uncanny ability to pick out an opponent’s weak points and attack them relentlessly. Hilary Clinton had enough political baggage to fill a dozen freight trains – Donald Trump made sure we all remembered that ‘Crooked Hilary’ was, de facto if not de jure, a crook. It worked. One should not underestimate Trump just because one dislikes him.

When it comes to Elizabeth Warren, Trump had every reason to remind his supporters – and everyone sitting on the fence – that she had falsely claimed Native American ancestry until it was no longer expedient to do so. This had two great advantages. First, if Warren had lied about something as minor as her ancestry, what else might she lie about? Second, as many of Trump’s supporters – and the fence-sitters – loathe the very concept of Affirmative Action as they see themselves as being pushed out by racial and sexual quotas, it was a reminder that Warren was very definitely not one of them. She had an unfair advantage and used it ruthlessly. This was made worse – like the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate – by Warren’s refusal to take a DNA test, even though Trump offered to donate a million dollars to charity if she did so. This was, of course, a gamble on Trump’s part … but an understandable one. Warren could have laid the matter to rest at any moment by taking a DNA test. Why would she not unless she had something to hide?

A few days ago, she did take the test. And the results have been … mixed.

Warren and her supporters claim that the results vindicate her. She does have a non-white ancestor in her family tree. However, others – including CNN, which is hardly staffed by Trump’s supporters – pointed out a number of issues with the test. At best, Warren is 1/64th non-white; at worst, 1/1024th. If we declare that this makes her Native American, then we must declare that a sizable percentage of the American population is also Native American … and, one might reasonably ask, at which point do ‘Native Americans’ stop being a minority?

There are a number of other issues with the DNA test (and her ancestry in general) that should be noted. As I understand it, Warren was not compared to either Native American DNA in general or Cherokee DNA in particular. The tribes have worked hard to discourage the collection of DNA samples. The test, therefore, is unreliable by definition. Worse, an assessment of Warren’s ancestry reveals that one of her ancestors took part in the forcible relocation of the Cherokees from their ancestral lands. If Warren can claim an advantage from having a Native American ancestor, should she not also be hampered by having an ancestor who persecuted said Native Americans?

(The sad irony of the whole affair is that many people, myself included, would not either praise or condemn Warren – or anyone – for being lucky or unlucky in her choice of ancestors.)

The Cherokees themselves have also weighed in, pointing out – rightly – that Warren is not a registered member of the tribe. Nor has she lived as a Native American. I don’t care to get into a discussion of heritage versus upbringing, and I have difficulties understanding the rules about who counts and who doesn’t, but I do tend to assume that the Cherokees know what they’re talking about. If they do not accept Warren as culturally Cherokee, or at least having some Cherokee blood, why should anyone else?

We live in a world where we are obliged to accept that a biological male is actually a female, if he chooses to self-identify as such. But the rules governing who can be what are arcane – and change so often – that it’s difficult to tell who should be taken seriously. If a man can be accepted as a woman, and anyone who says otherwise persecuted into the fiery depths of internet hell, why can’t a white woman be accepted as a black woman? Why can’t Warren be accepted as a Native American?

One possible answer, of course, is that if anyone could do it, anyone could claim the advantages that go with it. Warren is accused of doing just that, when she claimed Native American blood to aid her entry into Harvard. Another possibility is that is cheapens the experiences of the real [whatever]. If someone embraces an identity that comes with a social cost – or we are told comes with a social cost – is there actually a social cost at all?

But all of this pales next to something a little more important.

I have nothing, but contempt for someone who trades on an unfair advantage (i.e. one that is not available to everyone) to gain an edge. If I lose out to someone who has an engineering degree I could have earned for myself, if I had bothered, I’m not going to resent it; if I lose out to someone who claims to have something I literally cannot match, no matter what I do, I am going to resent it. Trump’s attacks on Warren – and Affinitive Action in general – were so successful because many of his supporters did resent it. Some saw it as pushing them out; others, perhaps with more reason, saw it as weakening their futures.

But, at the same time, I can understand the dilemma facing the young Warren. She wanted – she needed – to get as good an education as she could. Harvard is more than just a fancy name on one’s resume; it’s a chance to rub shoulders with well-connected people who will almost certainly be important and powerful one day. Eight Presidents went to Harvard, including Bush43 and Obama44. Going to Harvard is something that should not be missed, right? How can one blame the young Warren for leveraging every advantage in her arsenal to get into Harvard?

And it is this that proves so divisive. I can understand, even empathise, with her dilemma. But the people who lose out because merit takes a backseat to racial background, something that no one can control, feel otherwise. The constant stream of challenges to Affirmative Action from people who feel they have been held to higher standards than others is clear proof of the growing resentment. Worse, perhaps, everyone who is seen as having had an unfair advantage is automatically assumed to be less capable than someone who didn’t have that advantage. It may not be fair, let alone true, but it is very human.

The blunt truth is that anything that draws lines between racial groups – and every other group – is divisive, destructive and ultimately fatal. Warren is a poor candidate for any number of reasons, but one of them is that a large percentage of the country will regard her as someone who had an unfair advantage – or as a liar. No one had any reason to care about Warren’s ancestry until she brought it up herself. Worse, perhaps, anyone who identifies themselves too closely with one group will be regarded with suspicion by every other group. The curse of identity politics is, at the end, it boils down to ‘me and mine first.’ That is not a recipe for peaceful co-existence, let alone productive cooperation and eventual unification.

And, if we want to progress as a society, we must put merit ahead of anything else.

This requires us to leave the past where it belongs, in the past.

28 Responses to “Musings on Heritage”

  1. GC October 18, 2018 at 3:54 pm #

    I’ve never before read your blog, but having now read some of your posts, I can see why I so enjoy your books. You have a sound grasp of reality, which somehow translates into a wonderful ability with fantasy and fiction. It’s refreshing to read reasonable statements backed by logic.

  2. Gary F. York October 18, 2018 at 5:12 pm #

    Well said! G.

  3. Quite possibly a cat October 18, 2018 at 6:20 pm #

    Elizabeth Warren didn’t go to Harvard. She worked at Harvard after already being a lawyer, but as far as the hiring committee knew Elizabeth was white.


    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm #

      I think there’s been some “white-washing” going on. 😈

      • Jack Hudler October 18, 2018 at 7:28 pm #

        Did you have to use ‘white’

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 18, 2018 at 7:47 pm #

        Yes. 😆

  4. PhilippeO October 18, 2018 at 7:24 pm #

    Your second to last post is about “innocent until proven guilty”, then you talk about Crocked Hillary. This is rank Hipocrisy.

    as for Warren, she is ” accused” (more correct word is slandered) of using native american identity to further her education and career, there is zero proof of this. Investigation into Warren past had show none such thing.

    Warren appear to have quirk of seeing “family legend” (which frequently false) as important. Her listing Native American heritage in her biography and this DNA testing is part of this. This is rather stupid, but she never exploit or using her claim of Native American identity for anything.

    • Jack Hudler October 18, 2018 at 7:27 pm #

      There is proof; Harvard listed her as a POC.

    • Stuart the Viking October 19, 2018 at 1:31 pm #

      Your second to last post is about “innocent until proven guilty”, then you talk about Crocked Hillary. This is rank Hipocrisy.

      I’ve seen enough of the evidence on Hillary. That that woman isn’t in jail is a mockery of justice.

    • chrishanger October 21, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

      That’s not a bad point, in the sense that Hilary hasn’t been convicted of anything, but there is more than enough evidence to prove that Hilary is – at best – guilty of gross carelessness … the sort of carelessness that gets mere mortals in jail.


  5. Jack Hudler October 18, 2018 at 7:38 pm #

    Have to make a comment about Trump which baffles most Trump haters.
    I’ve learned that what he says and tweets is not for consumption by his base, it’s for the Liberal Media. So it should come as no surprise when I say that I don’t care what he says. I smile at his blatant hyperbola, misrepresentations, even a blatant lie. Because in the end, words don’t matter, deeds do.
    I also love how he threatens and uses trade tariffs to bludgeon trading partners to come to the table an negotiate new agreements; NAFTA is a great example, EU is another.

  6. P October 18, 2018 at 10:34 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Glad to see you’re feeling well enough to start following politics again.

    I think so much of this boils down to we have some (many?) bad people out there in politics. When it comes to American politics, neither of the major parties have better people than the other. You don’t have to be willing to lie, cheat and steal to get to the top, but it sure seems to make it easier.

    So people vote for parties rather than individuals. It’s just like a family. Your brother may be an a$#hole, but he’s your a$#hole and only you get to make fun of him. “Liberals” defend Clinton and Warren, while “conservatives” defend Trump because to them they’re family. It doesn’t matter what they say or do, they’ll somehow justify it or decry it depending on which family they belong to.

    Personally, I think that it will be the rare exception that the country as a whole will actually vote “for” one of these candidates as opposed to “against” the other. Maybe if we had a “none of the above” option in elections we’d stop getting so may liars and cheats because we wouldn’t be forced to chose between two liars and cheats.

  7. Rhino October 18, 2018 at 11:39 pm #

    Hey man, move here – take up citizenship. We’ll get you healthy and elect you to office. Logic is in short supply

  8. David Graf October 18, 2018 at 11:42 pm #

    Warren is not a native american but as far as can be told, she did have a native american ancestor. Trump ought to pay up. 🙂

    • Ann October 19, 2018 at 12:29 am #

      Ancestors is impossible to prove beyond a few generations. You get half your genetics from each parent but that is an average that could be more or less and everyone is related (50th cousins).

    • Mike October 19, 2018 at 8:01 pm #

      Warren’s test results shows marker for haplogroup R. That haplogroup can show a male Eastern Native American encestor. However, it also can show Northern Asian, in particular Siberian. She has no Haplogroup Q marker, which is common in Western tribes (I am Western Shoshone and Blackfoot), but even that marker is not definitive as it is common for Northern Europeans. The test Warren took is one of the least definitive. It DOES NOT show Natuve American ancestors. It *may* show Northern Asian or, less likely, Southern Native American ancestors, but even that with an error probability somkarge that she may be 100% European.

  9. gbarbay00 October 19, 2018 at 6:51 pm #

    Very well done post Chris. Gotta love identity politics… NOT!

  10. Eric C Gleason October 20, 2018 at 3:33 am #

    I was under the impression you were scottish.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard October 20, 2018 at 3:49 am #

      IIRC Chris is but what does that have anything to do with his post?

      Some elements of Affirmative Action exist in Britain.

  11. Barnone October 21, 2018 at 9:11 pm #

    DNA is not ME.
    Until very recently, most women did not choose their mates.
    This included Queens and Princesses as well as the commoner.

    So even a King could have his heritage tainted by a less than fully consensual mating.
    And everyone, except the King was a slave/serf.
    So everyone is the descendant of a slave.

    Science tells us that we are all related to Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) of Ethiopia.
    When her descendants got bored they walked out of the village, out of Africa, out of Europe, walked to India, China, Russia to Alaska and down to South America.
    They walked to the British Isles when they weren’t islands. They sailed to Iceland and to Greenland and other islands.

    So are the Icelanders “Native Icelanders”? What about those that walked to North and South America? Are they Natives? or just early walkers. Tell me about those Saxons. Are they Native to the British Isles?

    I am the descendant of slaves and serfs
    I am the descendant of non-consensual mating.
    I am a descendant of Africa.
    I am not a native of the land that I currently live on.
    And everyone alive, unless they live in Ethiopia is exactly the same.

  12. M Boddy October 21, 2018 at 9:58 pm #

    Senator Warren clams to be native American and took a blood test to prove it. The thing that I have never understood about the Senator’s claims is that she never showed or said she had any wish to learn her (claimed to ) heritage. So what is the point? Yes I know she is planing to run in 2020 this did not help her case though.

    • George Phillies October 23, 2018 at 1:17 am #

      The objective was to make Donald Trump look like an idiot.

      • Mike October 23, 2018 at 1:21 am #

        I’m not enthralled by politicians of any ilk, but Warren is dumb as a rock. Trump is the master of trolling and trying to troll him was incredibly stupid. Warren got her head handed to her. Any national aspirations ended.

  13. Bewildered October 22, 2018 at 6:25 am #

    Regarding why white women can’t be accepted as black women, they can, it just depends on the jurisdiction in question. There was a case in Australia where a chap wrote 2 columns about ‘Whites’ claiming Aboriginal status and riding the gravy train all the way home. Those named sued and the left-wing judge (a ‘former activist’ who’d previously sought election to parliament) ruled in their favour despite the fact that some of them had family members who denied being Aborigine. How can a child be Black if their biological parents and siblings are 100% White? And if they can does that mean Rachel Dolezal really is a Black woman?

  14. Big Ben October 28, 2018 at 5:30 pm #

    Trump doesn’t have anything of substance to say, so he manufactures pointless scandal to distract his zombie base from his astonishing lack of achievements.
    Health care? Nope.
    Infrastructure? Nope.
    Immigration reform? Nope.
    His version of the Berlin Wall (that Mexico will pay for)? Nope.
    Bringing America together and moving us into the future? Things haven’t been this divided since the Civil War.

    I guess he has gotten some things done:
    Breaking or trying to reneg on promises, treaties and deals all over the world, (Paris Climate, Iran Nuclear, NAFTA, TPP, etc.) Yep.
    Unpopular trillion dollar tax cut giveaway to the wealthy? Yep.
    Skyrocketing national debt and deficits? Hey, at least the billionaires are happy … but now the Republicans say we have to cut Medicare and other services.
    Writing (leaked) policy drafts to roll back LGBTQ and gender equality rights. Yep.
    Putting a belligerent alcoholic conspiracy theorist on the Supreme Court. Yep.
    Over 4,000 verifiable falsehoods (lies) told since taking office? Something to be proud of.
    Pissing off the mild-mannered Canadians (and most of our other allies from the Australians to the Brits)? Perhaps his most impressive achievement. But he loves his bromance with Little Rocket Man.

    And all Chump’s supporters can bellyache about is whether Elizabeth Warren has an smidgen off Native American ancestry?
    Evil Hillary?
    Fake news?


    • Jack Hudler October 28, 2018 at 7:04 pm #

      It’s clear you’re so indoctrinated to your ideology that any chance of a civil discourse is impossible,

      • Big Ben October 30, 2018 at 6:24 pm #

        Point out one thing that I listed above that is factually inaccurate.

        I want to see Trump keep the plethora of promises he’s made over the last few years that would legitimately benefit the American people.
        Not sow discord and trump up fake news.

        … BTW, the “media” generally repeats what Trump says, often verbatim and usually on film, tape, etc.
        So when Trump says something untrue or idiotic and then squeals “fake news” when the press repeats his words, is it the media that’s fake or the a President himself?

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