by Dr. Carol M. Swain
The Left has created quite a conundrum for itself. As a consequence, it has no moral language to justify its condemnation of Senator Elizabeth Warren for her decades-long decision to self-identify as a Native American.
The Leftists we see on television depicted in the forms of Democratic Party spokespersons such as Senators Cory Booker, Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris, see the world through a postmodernist lens. While secular humanists dismissed religion and believed in science, reason, objective truth, and free will, postmodernists believe in everything, thus they believe in nothing.
Postmodernists see humans as social beings, shaped by a particular culture and the times, operating in a world without objective realities and moral constraints. While the humanists believed man could eventually solve man’s problems through science and human ingenuity, the postmodernists reject such ridiculous pie-in-the-sky notions. Their critique of modernism and theism have led them to believe that what some people see as human progress is merely the continuation of a dominant European worldview and a set of privileges that lie at the root of the world’s problems (See Dennis McCallum (ed.) The Death of Truth: Responding to Multiculturalism’s Reject of Reason, 1996). From this, they create for themselves an understandable account of differences between modernism, postmodernism, and theism.
The Left’s ability to police its own followers run smack into a worldview without absolute truths, where race is a social construct, gender is fluid, science is useless, and individuals choose their sexual identity based on how they feel. Postmodernists believe the ends justifies the means. They believe that they can become creators by manipulating language and creating new realities and social constructs to override the ones they find dysfunctional. This is the world they hope to create by beating the rest of us into submission using any means necessary.
The postmodernist worldview has not stopped some on the Left from condemning Senator Warren. Keep in mind, Warren is supposed to be on their side – she herself is a devout Leftist. In this instance, Warren is not being cut the same slack accorded Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who posed and passed as black until her parents outed her in 2015. At the time Dolezal’s true race was revealed, she was serving as president of Spokane, Washington’s NAACP chapter. Although some people accused her of cultural appropriation, others defended her self-identity. “Cultural appropriations is the adoption of certain elements from another culture without the consent of the people who belong to the culture.” In the case of Dolezal, former MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry postulated, “Is it possible that she might actually be black?” . . . “Is [there] actually a different category of blackness, that is about the achievement of blackness, despite one’s parentage?”
The postmodernist Left allows and celebrates self-identity over DNA and X and Y chromosomes. By their standards, it should not matter that Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test stated she was between 1/64 and 1/1032 Columbian. Her self-identification was Cherokee-American. In terms of genetic identification with Native Americans in the U.S., she was between 0.1 and 1.5 percent Native American. What should matter for the Left was Warren’s self-identification that prompted her to list herself as Native American in the Association of American Law Schools and in hiring materials for Harvard University Law School, where she claimed status as the University’s first tenured Native American law professor. Had this self-identification not become controversial, she would no doubt have run for president as the nation’s first Native American candidate.
Although the postmodernist Left argues that a person can be whatever they see themselves as being, they reserve the right to create social constructs geared at punishing those they see as apostates from their cause. Therefore, a biologically black person can become white on the basis of their actions or beliefs. For example, black conservatives such as Kanye West and Candace Owens have been called white supremacists and dismissed as Uncle Toms and Aunt Janes, as has yours truly.
The Leftists’ criteria for assessing truth claims are malleable depending on the circumstances. In other words, they do whatever they want when they want to fit the moment, while reserving the right to turn 180 degrees on a dime. Therefore, a white person like Dolezal, who chose to join the black race and fight for the struggle, can be black because she acts and thinks like a liberal member of the group. On the other hand, Elizabeth Warren, a Leftist who presents herself as fighting for the downtrodden, is lambasted because she does not advance the progressive agenda of the postmodernist when it comes to the preferred race narrative. In effect, she lacks Dolezal’s credibility with the group, which now includes a conviction for welfare fraud.
The postmodernist Left needs to make up its mind about truth claims, science, and social constructs. Remember, truth is relative for them, and the existing power structures reflect European dominant values and principles. If the Left, however, can accept Christine Blasey Ford’s “truth” about her alleged encounter with a teenaged Brett Kavanaugh while dismissing all evidence to the contrary, then surely its leaders can accept the DNA results that gives Senator Warren her 1/1032nd of native blood. I contend the Left should accept Warren’s “truth” since their truth is relative.
There is a bigger problem posed by people such as Elizabeth Warren and Rachel Dolezal that hurts racial and ethnic minorities. It is the gaming of affirmative action programs by people who engage in ethnic fraud. Ethnic fraud occurs when someone who isn’t a member of the beneficiary group designates one’s self as a member for purposes of collecting a benefit. There is reason to believe a lot of ethnic fraud takes place. No doubt this is soon to be followed by lots of sexual identity fraud. The mushy system invites abuse. We do not require DNA tests for individuals who self-identify as protected minorities, which now would include individuals who check one of the growing numbers of LGBTIAQ categories.
Elizabeth Warren is problematic because she allowed herself to be celebrated as a Native American achiever, breaking records to become a first in many categories. Cheated out of that recognition were Native Americans from reservations or with enough documented native blood to obtain tribal papers. By all practical purposes, she gamed affirmative action and benefitted from doing so.
Affirmative action was also an issue for Rachel Dolezal, who attended historically black Howard University and sued the University in 2002 for race-based discrimination. Dolezal accused the University of denying her “a teaching assistant job, further employment and a scholarship because she was white.” Her case was dismissed after the DC Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court decision that ruled against her claims of racial discrimination. She was therefore stuck with court costs. When she applied for the NAACP position, she listed her race as “white, black, and American Indian (Politico, 2015).” It seems in the case of Dolezal, she decided if you can’t beat them, then join them. She literally joined the black race as a self-identifier with street creds.
Years ago, economist Thomas Sowell (who’s black) looked at preferential policies around the world (India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Israel, Malaysia, Nigeria, and the United States). He concluded that whenever a government creates a benefit based on race or ethnicity, polarization ensues, and the beneficiary class quickly expands beyond the known population size of the protected minorities (See Preferential Policies: An International Perspective, 1990).
What we have with the Left’s Elizabeth Warren conundrum is merely the tip of the iceberg. Oh, that we could only return to modernism and the allowance it gave us for objective truth. We are now like the people of ancient Israel during the time of the Judges: each man does what is right in his own eyes. American laws, polluted by nonsensical postmodernists and steeped into the minds of several generations of college graduates, have left us without a reliable anchor.
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Carol M. Swain is an award-winning author, former professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, a public speaker, and host of The Be the People Podcast. Her most recent book is “Debating Immigration: Second Edition (2018). Her website is www.carolmswain.com. The above article was previously published in The Epoch Times as “Leftists Lack the Language and Moral Authority to Criticize Senator Elizabeth Warren.”