Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be Native American ignores the ancient historic forces that dispersed Native American DNA over three continents and many races.
I’d meant to post this earlier, but what with the Japan trip and jet lag, I’m just getting around to it — with “it” being the fact that I am at least as Native American as Elizabeth Warren.
Those of you who know my family history, about which I’ve written here, may be a bit confused. I’m a first generation American, both of whose parents came from Europe, where they have deep roots. How in the heck, then, can I be part Native American?
Well, I am (either that or Asian):
How’d this happen? My friend Jeffrey A. Friedberg, whose writing you can find at Watcher Of Weasels, American Thinker, Conservative Right Wing News, and Intellectual Conservative, made the connection for me: It’s because I have so much Ashkenazi DNA in me.
To understand this, you have to go back to the end of the Great Ice Age. That was the time when the Asiatic people residing in what is now Northern Russia and, probably, Mongolia, crossed the Bering land mass to enter North America and, eventually, South America. These people were the progenitors of the Native Americans in the United States. At the same time, back in Eastern Europe, the Asiatic people left behind not only remained in northern Russia (and probably, Mongolia), they also started drifting down into places such as the Ukraine, Poland, Western Russia, etc.
Meanwhile, beginning in the Middle Ages, Ashkenazi Jews were being driven out of Europe. Many of these Jews escaped East, to such places as Ukraine, Poland, Western Russia, etc. It was there that the descendants of the same Asiatic cohort that broke off to cross into North America raped a substantial number of Jewish women. (The reality of rape, incidentally, is one of the reasons Judaism is matrilineal. Judaism was not going to see the children of rape lose their Jewish identity.) These women, therefore, passed down to their descendants the same DNA that Native Americans were passing down to their descendants.
Consider, further, that strongly identified North American Indigenous Tribes, such as the Cherokee, are very reluctant to do DNA testing in part because they do not want DNA challenges to their tribal identities, which consist of a lot more than “pure” blood lines. After all, it was very common for several hundred years for these tribes to augment their numbers by kidnapping white colonists and Americans, so their DNA isn’t so pure either. What binds tribes together is their lived lineage, not their DNA lineage.
With all of the above in mind, I highly recommend Jonah Goldberg’s article about the ridiculousness of basing ones identity on DNA studies:
Consider Kyle Merker. You’ve probably seen the Ancestry.com commercial featuring his story. It begins with him declaring: “Growing up, we were German.”
“We danced in a German dance group,” he continues. “We wore lederhosen.” We then see him doing a little German dance in his lederhosen.
Merker signed up for Ancestry.com and noticed very few Germans in his family tree. So he had his DNA tested through Ancestry.com’s test service and discovered: “We’re not German at all. Fifty-two percent of my DNA comes from Scotland and Ireland.” In the ad, a little pie chart shows that the rest comes from Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, and “other.”
And then the kicker: “I traded in my lederhosen for a kilt,” Merker says. And we see him in his authentic Scottish garb with a big smile.
Every single person reading this column can trace his or her DNA back to some ancient ancestor who hunted antelope on some African savanna or Asian steppe. That doesn’t mean my real identity is caveman or nomadic hunter. Most of us — white, black, Asian, etc. — probably have ancestors who were serfs or slaves. All of our family trees are top-heavy with pagans and animists. That is not who we are.
I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to investigate how their people came to Ireland. But why would you throw away your culture and identity because five, 10, or 20 generations ago your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather or grandmother came from somewhere else? Many Italians have a smorgasbord of DNA in them — from the Moors or other invaders. Are they not “real Italians”?
There’s a term for this kind of thinking: “racial purity.”
The idea that you are what your DNA says you are is illiberal, because liberalism (in the classical sense) is premised on the idea that the individual is more than just bloodlines. Think of it this way: You know what you call an American citizen with Irish DNA going back 300 or 1,000 years? An American. (Or, if you really care, an Irish-American.) That so many people aren’t content with that is a symptom of a much deeper problem with our society today.
Or, if that’s too deep for you, enjoy the South Park take on the matter:
As for me, I’m all American, although the forces that shaped me were two parents raised in Europe and Israel, one all Jewish, one part Jewish. What also shaped me was growing up in San Francisco, going to an intensely Asian academic public high school, going to Berkeley, living in Texas, etc. I am most decided not my historic DNA, although I do find interesting the hints of my family history, both Jewish and non-Jewish, that the DNA reveals.