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Was it right for Elizabeth Warren to identify as a minority? Will voters care?

A genealogist is supporting Elizabeth Warren's claim of Cherokee ancestry. But what could linger with voters is whether it's right for someone who is 1/32 native American to claim minority status.

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"The discovery of a great-great-great-grandmother does raise the question of when it becomes unseemly, if not outright deceptive, for someone to claim minority status – especially in a profession where ethnic preferences in hiring and promotions are routinely observed," blogger Vincent Carroll wrote Tuesday for the Denver Post.

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He said Warren may land on the spectrum somewhere in between two Colorado figures who became nationally known. One is former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who passed himself off as native American with, in Mr. Carroll's words, "no credible basis." The other is former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, "who was three-eighths Northern Cheyenne, [and] proudly touted his Indian ancestry during his tenure in Congress."

Warren's campaign released statements from officials at the universities where she has worked, stating that her purported minority status had nothing to do with decisions to hire her. Those institutions are the University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania, the University of Houston Law Center, and most recently Harvard Law School.

Former Harvard Law Dean Robert Clark, who held that post when Warren was hired in the early 1990s, said "her native American heritage was not a factor in the discussion or the decision."

But the Boston Herald reported that Warren listed herself as a minority from 1986 to 1995, in the Association of American Law Schools' annual directory.

And at least to some degree, Harvard Law School itself claimed Warren as a minority member of its faculty. In the mid-1990s, the Harvard Crimson quoted a school spokesman touting the faculty's diversity, including a reference to one native American (Warren). Another Crimson story called Warren the first woman with a minority background to receive tenure at the school, the Boston Globe reported.


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