Elizabeth Warren and the DNA Test


The results of my DNA testing. Ancestry.com on the left and My Heritage on the right.

In my life, I have seen politicians do some pretty stupid things but Elizabeth Warren releasing her DNA test has to make my top 10 list of all-time most ridiculous things. I am not sure who advised her to do it but whomever he/she is they should be fired. She walked right into a trap and now, if she plans to run for president in 2020, this will follower her around.

Some 30 odd years ago my brothers and I set off on a quest to research my father’s side of the family. This was back before DNA testing and before Ancestry and all of the other sites, so one had to write letters and visit town clerks offices. We discovered that the first to bear the name Preble in the new world was Abraham Preble who came to the town of Scituate Massachusetts in the 1630’s.

The population of the area was of a size that people intermarried and, if our family has been here that long, it means you are related to a whole bunch of people. For example, John Adams is my 6th cousin 10x’s removed, and Abraham Lincoln is my 6th cousin 5x’s removed. Suffice it to say because my family has been here for over 350 years I am “related” to just about everyone who claims to be here that long.

I am, what Boston Globe Columnist Jeff Jacoby calls a “typical white person.” My family origin is mostly European with some Scandinavian thrown in on my father’s mother’s side. So I am pretty white when it comes to my ethnic background.

Jacoby wrote a column today chiding Elizabeth Warren for making a big deal out of her “1.5 percent and 0.09 percent” Native American DNA; I am not going to use the word heritage because I believe that word to mean much more than what we have coursing through our veins. In a statement released on October 15, 2018, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. had this to say about DNA testing and Native American heritage:

“Sovereign tribal nations set their legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

The problem with all of this is Senator Warren has been claiming minority status as a Native American since 1987 when she was a law school professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. U Penn and Harvard Law, where she went on the faculty on 1995, have been using her “status” to show diversity amongst the faculty. Did she personally gain from any of this, I am not sure, but politically I believe this has hurt her.

However, there is a much larger problem according to the Jacoby’s Globe column:

“Having a dab of American Indian ancestry doesn’t make Warren an American Indian, any more than having a Viking or Charlemagne in her family tree — you probably do, too — makes her a seafaring Norse warrior or a royal highness. Warren’s meticulously choreographed DNA rollout doesn’t prove that she is a proud Cherokee-American, as Cherokee activists and tribal authorities have adamantly pointed out. Genetics determine only biology — not social identity or culture or tradition.

The racist trope that a man was black if he had “one drop” of African blood was a pillar of segregation in post-Reconstruction America. US Census enumerators used to subdivide Americans into pseudo-scientific racial classifications — “white,” “Negro,” “mulatto,” “quadroon,” “octoroon.” Those labels rightly make us cringe today.”

Jacoby Continues,

“The Warren DNA hype is just one more manifestation of the whole rotten business of judging or valuing people on the basis of race. Whether you love Warren or loathe her should depend on her ideas and ideals, her deeds and words — not on her genetic ancestry. Professors and senators, like plumbers and stockbrokers, should be selected or rejected because of their abilities and the quality of their work. The color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, and ethnicity of their ancestors shouldn’t even enter into the equation.”

I am of the opinion, and I am no big fan of Senator Warren, that she has done more harm to her case and the case of others and their DNA. With all that said, I think it is beneath the dignity of the office of the President of the United States to call someone, in a derogatory way, Pocahontas and for anyone to be making fun of anyone for his or her genetic makeup. However, this President continues to use this “term” at rallies and other such events in an attempt to whip up his base similar to the “lock her up” chants during and after the campaign about his opponent Secretary Hilary Clinton.

By the way, I had my DNA tested several years ago (as you can see from the graphic above) and it confirmed what we thought, I am a white guy from Europe.  However, according to My Heritage DNA, one of the leading DNA research site, I am also 1.1% Nigerian.  So using the Warren yardstick of genetic measurement, I should be able to check the box that says I am African American.  Maybe I should, but I don’t think I will.

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