Problem for your claim of accuracy is you don’t know if any particular g-g-g gma had NA ancestry. You don’t know which ancestor.
Sure, her family story could have been wrong in part. It could have been her great-great-great grandfather, but the evidence does support the claim she made, down to the ethnicity and approximate number of generations back she specified, which lends the entire family story some credibility. But yes, which g-g-g grandparent may have been off, that is true.
I’m giving “substantial” a meaning of “sufficiently high enough to claim identity as a member of that minority.” I’m not sure what that amount is, but if you have to go 6-10 generations back to maybe find one ancestor, I don’t buy it.
See, that’s actually a point of agreement hiding in here, and why I like arguing with you. We actually do agree about stuff from time to time and it feels like a revelation every time it happens. We’re pretty polar opposite but we don’t just go to our respective corners and throw spitballs.
When you’re filling out a form and there’s checkboxes that say “check all that apply”, and you know for certain that you have approx 1/32nd ancestry from one of the listed groups, I can understand that you might want to check the corresponding box. Because you were instructed to “check all that apply” and it does apply. And the most charitable interpretation of checking that box under those circumstances is that you were being a little too literal with your instructions, without taking into account the larger context of why the boxes are there in the first place. If you recognized that there was a limit to the statistical value of particular parts of your ancestry, you would (and should) leave those boxes unchecked. You are not disavowing your ancestors, you are providing more useful data. Swallow the guilt and leave them out. Otherwise everyone would mark African because that’s where humanity started and we all have ancestors from there, right? Where that limit should be is up for some debate, and possibly a bit dependent on the purpose for which the data is being gathered, but I’d certainly place the bar higher than a single individual five generations back in almost all cases.
The less charitable interpretation involves embracing the exotic as a means to make your life’s story more interesting than it really is.
Those who write the questions probably don’t consider that anyone will answer for any percentage less than 1/8th. It’s unusual for people to go around knowing that they’re 1/32nd Native American. But with genetic testing becoming more commonplace, it’s increasingly normal. I’d suggest that people who write those questions suggest what a “significant portion” is, rather than leaving it as an exercise for the reader.
Similarly, it’s far too easy outside the checkbox scenario for people to throw around tiny fractional ancestries as if they mean something.
Nevertheless, she didn’t make it up. She and her family may be guilty of romanticizing or exoticizing, overstating the relevance of the native ancestry, but there is no indication that they were mistaken about, or lied about, or even exaggerated, the basic facts of their ancestry. This is what she was accused of, and she just shut down that line of criticism with evidence supporting her family story, exactly as it was told to her. Which is why the criticism is now moving on to other angles. And some of those new criticisms may very well be valid, and perhaps they are the criticisms that should have been made all along, but that’s another argument.
You’re right the arguments seem to shift. There appear to be three main arguments/ criticisms that should be disentangled; I will take each in turn.
- Whether Warren has a Native American ancestor, regardless the correlation with family history.
Accepting the DNA analysis as true, the answer is yes. This is relevant to Trump’s offer, though as discussed there is a reason he could plausibly deny payment. But this is far from the controversy about her lineage. It wasn’t actually about whether she happens to have some Native ancestor, which is all that the analysis demonstrates.
- Whether Warren’s family history is accurate.
I looked back at older articles and the lore wasn’t simply that there was a g-g-g gma who was part NA. Apparently there is dispute in the family but there were statements that two of Warren’s grandparents were part NA, one to an unknown but notable degree. Based on the renditions of family lore I find in older articles, Warren holding herself out as part Native American makes decent sense. But you say she knew she was AT BEST 1/32 and that she was just confused when checking boxes. The DNA doesn’t help this argument. It merely shows that some version of her family lore could be right. That members of her family told stories about NA ancestors hasn’t been in dispute, however.
- Whether Warren properly held herself out as Native American.
According to your telling, no it was not. You say she was just mixed up about what it meant to identify as NA. The DNA analysis makes the representation really embarrassing. Does not help at all. Any ancestor could have been maybe 10 ancestors back, making even her g-g-g gma’s claim to be NA ancestry potentially embarrassing.
I think her family stories exaggerated the amount of NA ancestry and Warren innocently (for lack of a better word) believed it. On that you’re right there are glimmers of agreement between us. I disagree she was merely confused when holding herself out as NA. I think she was mistaken about the amount (and significance) of ancestry she had.
You’ve probably made the best argument that can be made about the DNA analysis, but it just doesn’t connect to the central criticism in a meaningful way.
The chief (punintended) value of the analysis is as a piece of paper to waive around in front of people who think it’s about whether she happened to have a NA ancestor. There is the potential to reframe the debate along those lines. When people get confused about what an issue is even about, having a piece of paper declaring a supposed fact does much work.
As I said, I think this was a shrewd political move. I’ve second-guessed that a bit after there has been criticism from actual NAs about the analysis. There is the cultural appropriation angle as Warren continues to beat the drum (I could help myself, if I wanted) about possible NA ancestry.