School Talk

Hey Liz, You Have Not Lived One 1/1024th the Struggles of Native American Students in America

It’s not news that I’m no fan of Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren. Her total and complete reversal on education policy, perfectly timed with her decision to enter politics, makes her an unacceptable candidate for me, as an education voter. I found her claim of Native American heritage a bit off-putting but never took the time to understand the details of the story and have pushed back on folks who refer to her as “Pocahontas” in my presence.

But Warren’s decision to release DNA results to bolster her claims of Cherokee lineage and put a stop to Trump’s attacks suddenly made the details of the back story more relevant to those of us who had never taken the time to dive into it before. Turns out the story is pretty bad and the blame seems to lie mostly with Warren but also with Harvard Law School. There is no evidence that she was hired or promoted based on her “minority status”, though it is possible that Harvard felt no obligation to seek out any Native American—or perhaps other minority candidates—because they could point to Warren as proof of their diversity. They had checked that box, even if it turns out it was for someone who was somewhere between 1/64th Native American and 1/1024th Native American.

From National Review:

Her Native American ancestry claims may not have been a factor in her hiring at Harvard Law, but the University of Pennsylvania listed Warren’s 1994 teaching award in its Minority Equity Report. Harvard Law listed her as Native American in the university’s annual affirmative-action report; administrators listed her as such from 1995 to 2004. It took real action from Warren herself to be listed as Native American at the institutions at which she worked. 

Elizabeth Warren has lived her life as a white woman—as have I—and waving around some study by a Stanford professor does not change that, no matter how badly she may want to show potential voters in a 2020 presidential race that she too is connected to a historically disadvantaged group. Come on, Liz.

It’s an Education Crisis

A quick look at Warren’s educational opportunities—and those of her children and grandchildren—leaves no doubt that she has zero personal connection to what can only be called a crisis in the Native American community.

According to the Partnership with Native Americans, the statistics are grim:

Reality:  More than 60% of U.S. high school students go on to college, while only 17% of American Indian students are able to continue their education after high school, facing a number of challenges the average student does not encounter.

Reality:  While 28 percent of Americans complete college, only 13 percent of Native Americans hold a college degree.

According to the American Psychological Association:

Native American Indians struggle disproportionately with a vast range of health and social issues. Among these issues, substance abuse problems leave a glaring blemish on this population that cannot be ignored. Evidence of high prevalence of substance abuse can be more visibly seen among the Native American Indian youth. Among American Indian adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, higher rates in the use of cigarettes (16.8 percent compared to 10.2 percent), marijuana (13.8 percent compared to 6.9 percent), and non-medical uses of prescription drugs (6.1 percent compared to 3.3 percent) are exhibited when compared to the national average.

And according to education advocate Phil Gover, who grew up on a Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in Nevada and is now focused on educating Native American students in Oklahoma, “many urban Native communities suffer from similar issues as their cousins in rural or reservation settings—higher instances of physical, sexual and substance abuse, increased risk of suicide and teenage pregnancy and low persistence and graduation rates.”

It seems likely that we just witnessed Elizabeth Warren unofficially launch her presidential campaign only to see it collapse the very same day because of her utterly tone deaf insistence on playing the increasingly poisonous game of identity politics. Let’s hope others learn from her mistake.

(Photo credit: The New Yorker)

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