If Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren is guilty of exploiting her ethnicity for personal gain, Steve Almond says he is too. In this May 2, 2012 photo, Warren faces questions from reporters on her Native American heritage. (AP File Photo)
Over the past week, Senator Scott Brown found a new focus for his struggling campaign against consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren: attacking her Native American heritage.
He accused her of lying about it during their first debate, based on the fact that she, um, looked white. Then a mob of his super classy campaign staffers were caught over the weekend indulging in war whoops and tomahawk chops. Next, Brown released an ad implying, with exactly zero proof, that Warren had used her ethnicity to advance her career.
I’ll admit that my first reaction was disgust. Here was a desperate candidate trying to distract voters from his record of mollycoddling oil executives and Wall Street swells by launching cynical, unfounded, racially-tinged attacks.
But my second reaction to the flap was a bit more complicated. What if Scott Brown is right? What if Elizabeth Warren has been exploiting her minority status for years without even realizing it!
That’s when I started to feel the pangs of personal dread. Is it possible that I, too, have used my minority status for personal gain?
At this point, some of you may be wondering what minority status I’m talking about. After all, I look white enough to fool a racial authority as deft as Scott Brown.
But the truth is, when it comes to minority status, I’m a bona-fide triple threat: Jewish, left-handed and a twin.
Based on my calculations, we JLTs (or “Jilts” as we like to call ourselves) represent less than .000501 percent of the U.S. population.
Of course, unlike Warren, I’ve never checked a box on any sort of job application, because, frankly, most job applications don’t include boxes for us Jilts. Which, if you think about it, is further proof of how deeply the discrimination against Jilts runs.
Nonetheless, if I’m truly honest with myself, I have to admit that I’ve sought the advantages of my status. As a very young child, for instance, I remember continually reminding my grandparents of the adversity I faced in having to share my birthday, a hardship they could at least partially mitigate by providing me extra presents.
At age six, I lobbied my mother, unsuccessfully, for my own room, arguing that she’d made me “share a room” with my twin brother Mike since before we even emerged from the womb.
And most famously, I later exploited my twindom to delay my bar mitzvah (and the onerous duties therein) until I was 14.
The benefits of being left-handed were just as flagrant. I claimed preferential seating throughout grammar school, and used my “digital handicap” to justify all manner of crappy penmanship and artwork.
As a soccer player, I was routinely awarded the chance to start ahead of “normal” kids, simply because I could kick the ball with my left foot. At the time, I figured it was just luck. But looking back, the whole thing feels like an ugly quota system.
Like any self-respecting suburban Jilt, I had no compunction about taking as many of the Jewish holidays off as I could, despite the fact that we barely celebrated any of them.
I also eagerly advertised my heritage at Camp Tawonga, where it was well-established rumor that female campers tended to put out more for Jewish boys. (Sadly, I have yet to encounter this sort of affirmative fetishism in the adult world. But it’s not for lack of trying.) I’ve also used my Judaism to turn away miscellaneous religious solicitation, and to avoid jury duty at least once.
Thanks to Senator Scott Brown, I now realize this sort of conduct is inexcusable.
So the next time you see one of his ads attacking Warren, please don’t the settle for the obvious conclusion that he’s slinging racist mud to keep Massachusetts voters from focusing on his voting record.
Instead, thank him for setting such a high standard of integrity. I myself would be voting for him — if I weren’t a minority.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.