Editorial: Elizabeth Warren DNA test in poor taste



Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., points toward the subway in the U.S. Capitol on May 24 in Washington, D.C. (Ron Sachs/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., hinted in September that she plans to run for president in 2020 — but if that’s the case, she opened her campaign on a sour note.

The senator announced on Monday that she took a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage. It was intended as a harsh rebuke to those who questioned her self-proclaimed Cherokee ancestry, including President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly taunted the senator on the topic.

“Pocahontas (the bad version), sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American.”

Warren’s trace amounts of Native American DNA make her claim seem quite laughable — but beyond that, rehashing this silly debate is the last thing a senator and potential presidential candidate should concern themselves with. Native Americans still face rampant discrimination in this country, and Warren’s attempt to liken her life experiences to theirs comes across as extremely insensitive.

It’s also hypocritical for someone who claims to care about the plight minorities face. Warren openly champions diversity initiatives — she even penned a letter to Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen in 2016 decrying the lack of racial and gender diversity in the Federal Reserve.

“We remain deeply concerned that the Federal Reserve has not yet fulfilled its statutory and moral obligation to ensure that its leadership reflects the composition of our diverse nation in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, economic background and occupation,” Warren wrote in the letter.

If Warren believes this about the Federal Reserve, she should believe that about other institutions of power. But instead of bringing true diversity to government, she cited her DNA to grant herself minority status to gain popularity among minority communities. The Cherokee Nation issued a scathing statement on Monday in response to Warren’s DNA test results.

“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” the statement read.

Not only is Warren’s move inappropriate, it’s a slap in the face to actual Native Americans, who face very real problems in society today — including the inability to vote.

The Supreme Court ruled last week that citizens must supply their name and street address to register to vote — a measure that will prohibit thousands of Native Americans from voting, considering Native American reservations often don’t have official addresses.

Instead of rehashing a 2-year-old argument with the president, Warren should fight against governmental issues actually plaguing Native Americans. She could release a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s decision or push for more Native American representation in government. Currently, the United States has only two Native American representatives and no Native American senators.

President Trump stooped quite low in calling Warren “Pocahontas,” but Warren stooped even lower in dragging this petty argument out further. Native Americans face real problems in society today, and real problems demand real solutions. White people masquerading as oppressed minorities are just a distraction, not a solution.