Identifying race and ethnicity
It’s not a revelation to most people who read this blog to hear that many companies in the United States are required by law to file an annual report known as an EEO-1. This form requires reporting a lot of information, including the race and ethnicity of employees, based upon the self-identification of the employee. There are a range of categories that open a lot of possible categories.
In the last few days, a claim that she is 1/32 Cherokee has become problematic for U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, who is also a staff employee at Harvard University, and by extension for the university. Check this excerpt from HuffPo:
– What, exactly, makes someone American Indian? Even Indians themselves don’t agree as they debate the case of Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, whose disputed claim of Native American identity is shining a rare spotlight on the malleable nature of Indian heritage and the long history of murky claims to such ancestry.
Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and Democrat who is running in Massachusetts against Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, was listed as Native American in several law school directories. Warren has said that her “family lore” described Indian ancestors, and the New England Genealogy Association said it found indications – but not proof – that Warren had a Cherokee great-great-great grandmother, which would make her 1/32 Indian.
“I’m proud of my heritage,” Warren said Thursday. Asked how she knew it included Native Americans, she replied, “Because my mother told me so.”
Awesome, isn’t it? Apparently, Ms. Warren reported this “family lore” to Harvard, which reported on their affirmative action reports. Good for everybody, right? At least until now, when it has become a campaign issue.
Her opponents question whether Warren chose this heritage to gain advantages available to Indians and other underrepresented groups in academia.
“Warren has zero evidence that she is at all Native American,” said Brown’s campaign manager, Jim Barnett. The genealogy association acknowledges that it found only secondary references to Cherokee family members, not primary sources such as marriage, birth or census records.
I have no idea on the accuracy of these claims, but the situation does make clear the importance of properly reporting my own heritage. I probably won’t ever run for the Senate, but just in case I do, here it is.
This means that I am at least partly fictional, much like many other people, possibly even Ms. Warren.
Somehow I doubt the fate of the Senate race in Massachusetts should turn on this issue.