Wednesday, May 2, 2012

By These Standards I May Be Jewish

In one of the more interesting Senate races going on this year, Massholes are going to decide whether to re-elect moderate Republican Scott Brown or replace him with his challenger, Professor Elizabeth Warren.  The result will be a test of just how "blue" the Bay State actually is.

But as is often the case this year, the latest flareup isn't about what policies either of these candidates would pursue on taxes, spending, regulation, etc., but Prof. Warren's listing of herself as a "Native American" for purposes of her colleges taking credit for diversity hiring.  Brown's team is of course criticizing her for taking credit for supposed Cherokee ancestry (at best, her claim is based on having a great-great-great grandmother who is listed as Cherokee--or 1/32 Native American).

There is a great deal that fries my bacon over this whole mess.

1) Let's start with Warren's campaign manager Mindy Myers suggesting that the line of inquiry was "sexist".  Er, what???  I'm not sure what challenging someone's minority status claims has to do with sexism, unless you take the idea that women are all wilting flowers who get the vapors at political attacks of any type.  I couldn't stand when Sarah Palin's defenders acted as though every attack on her was "sexist" and it's no less disgusting here to hide behind that.  If this typical political salvo from Brown's camp is "sexist" then I'm afraid "sexist" has no meaning.  If anything, such a defense is condescending.

2) Whether you agree with race-based affirmative action (or "diversity hiring") this is a real perversion of its goals.  The entire idea is to provide access and opportunities to those who have previously been denied these things, as well as to diversify an otherwise homogenous pool.  (Again, the relative merits of these arguments, which are currently being tested before the Supreme Court, are another matter.  Let's assume this practice to be beneficial).  How on earth does letting an elite school faculty bring on Elizabeth Warren--a woman so freaking WHITE that she only stops at Costco to ask for directions to Whole Foods because they have a better organic hummus selection--in any way add a Native American flavor to their staff, or provide an opportunity to a Native American who has racial or individual obstacles to overcome?  By giving her this slot, it's being denied to someone who may have actually been born on a reservation or had parents who still practice Cherokee traditions.  If anything, this should be a good argument for limiting affirmative action to individuals with personal obstacles or who actually can promote diversity in the pool.

3) How should Warren have responded to this attack?  Minimize damage and move on--announce that you listed Cherokee ancestry because you believed it was proper, and it was in accordance with the employer (the school) standards.  Acknowledge that maybe this is a good reason to reassess how diversity hiring is implemented, as the practice as-is would tend to give institutions cover for not really promoting actual diversity. And then steer the campaign back to the issues--Brown is at a disadvantage as a Republican in a state that is likely to go for Obama by 20 points, and letting the race get to be about personalities takes away any advantage the Democrat may have.

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