The Harvard Chemistry Department Reunion — Part IV — setting the record straight

While waiting for my copy of the new edition of Clayden to arrive, it’s time to apologize to Harvard for the first post in the series, which mostly blamed them for the total absence of blacks in the 150+ attendees at the reunion. For details see –

Well, silly me, I didn’t realize blacks were there all the time.  My problem was not counting them the way Harvard people do.  Consider Harvard Law Professor and senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren, listing herself as a minority (native American variety) because she is 1/32nd Cherokee thanks to her great great great grandmother who was (perhaps).  The Law School celebrated her appointment in ’95 as one of the few women in the Law School, and then a year or so later celebrated her native American heritage. ““Of 71 current Law School professors and assistant professors, 11 are women, five are black, one is Native American and one is Hispanic,” The Harvard Crimson quotes then-Law School spokesman Mike Chmura as saying in a 1996 article.

Given those criteria for blackness, I’m sure blacks were well represented at the chemistry reunion.  Apologies to all.

Professor Warren doesn’t look native American, but then neither did one of my late father’s clients, a nice lady from Staten Island who was of the Sally Hemings family, and very proud of it.

I’m well aware of people attempting to glom on to an Indian heritage.  It happened all the time in Montana when I lived there.    The people wanting to get such recognition were after the (fairly minimal) benefits of tribal membership.  They weren’t something you’d want to be related to.  Neither did the Crows or the Cheyenne’s (the two tribes I knew best).  They drew the line at 1/32; just where Ms. Warren claims to be presently — I don’t remember if 1/32 meant acceptance or rejection.  Suffice it to say, it was harder to bluff your way in to those tribes than it was to get into Burke’s peerage.

I doubt that Warren used this to get into any of the places she’s taught.  But the places she’s taught have certainly used it, which shows you how even the best ideas (making sure minorities with brains aren’t arbitrarily excluded) can be ruined.  This sort of thing can’t help the cause, and frankly it stinks.  For just how minority free the Ivy league was 50+  years ago see the link above.

One more example.  One of my son’s Cornell friends (Asian) used her minority status to get a job in D. C. after graduation.  She certainly wasn’t disadvantaged, having been exposed to some of the country’s (and the world’s) finest intellectual capital for 4 years.

P. S. Having lived in Montana from ’72 to ’87 and taken care of perhaps 1,000 Indians,  you would have received some rather strange looks from a Crow or a Cheyenne if you called them a ‘native American’.  They called themselves Indians back then.  Perhaps they still do. I don’t know. I haven’t been back.

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