Friday September 28, 2012

I honestly do not understand William Lee’s reasoning about his and Elizabeth Warren’s ethnic heritage ("Integrity really does matter," op-ed Wednesday, Sept. 26). Like Lee, Warren has excellent reasons for thinking that she has Native American ancestry, and when asked her ethnicity she proudly and honestly checked the "Native American" box.

There is no evidence that she did this in the expectation of special treatment, and there is no evidence that she received any such treatment on account of it. She has said she did not, and with what documentary evidence do Lee, or Scott Brown, challenge her word?

More importantly, on what basis does Lee describe his own reticence as integrity, and Warren’s frankness as dishonesty? Far more Americans have Native American ancestry than know about it, just as far more of us have African-Americans in our lineage than we are ready to acknowledge. This is particularly so in the state of Oklahoma, where for generations many "white" families have massaged the illusion of their racial purity for fear of racist stigma, or out of their own racial animus. Formal records of intermarriage are scarce, for the obvious reason that nobody wanted to admit to it.


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Given that history, which our nation has far from completely outgrown, the courageous and honest thing is to own up to one’s native roots, as Warren has.

MATT SILLIMAN

Williamstown