ON MONDAY, Senator Elizabeth Warren released the results of a DNA test confirming what everyone already knew: The "vast majority" of her genetic makeup is European, but she may have a Native American ancestor in her distant past. That makes her, as Barack Obama once said in a different context, a "typical white person."
According to genetic scholars, the genome of white European-Americans is on average 0.18 percent Native American. The analysis of Warren's DNA, which she submitted to Stanford geneticist Carlos Bustamante, suggests that there was a Native American in her family tree somewhere between 6 and 10 generations ago. That would put the American Indian share of her DNA within a range of 1.5 percent and 0.09 percent — just like millions of other white Americans.
If you're like most people, a sliver of Native American coding in your DNA is no more than a colorful bit of family trivia. The only reason it has been treated as such a big deal in Warren's case is because she herself long ago puffed it up into the claim that she was a racial minority.
"During her academic career as a law professor," recounted The Boston Globe in its story on Warren's DNA test, "she had her ethnicity changed from white to Native American at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she taught from 1987 to 1995, and at Harvard University Law School, where she was a tenured faculty member starting in 1995." For years, Warren had herself listed as "Native American" in directories of law professors. To rebut accusations in 1996 that Harvard's law school faculty was insufficiently diverse, a university spokesman identified Warren as a Native American woman. The Fordham Law Review described her as Harvard Law's "first woman of color." These and other fabulations — and Warren's defensive doubling-down when they were reported — became an issue in her US Senate race in 2012. Now they're an issue all over again as she prepares to run for president in 2020.
Having a dab of American Indian ancestry doesn't make Warren an American Indian . . .