Mass. Senate

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.

When it comes to minority status, I’m a bona-fide triple threat: Jewish, left-handed and a twin.

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.

Tags: Election 2012, Humor, Mass. Senate

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  • Alexandre Dumas

    Touche Steve.

  • Richard

    The article, no matter one’s politics, is not funny. Is ‘crappy’ the most articulate adjective the author could conjure up? Is Ms. Warren guilty of ‘stealing Harvard?’

  • Beth

    Well, I confess to having done the same. With zero actual proof on paper, I was always told as a child that the French side of my family came here way back in the late 18th century because they were Huguenots (French Protestants). One of those family lore things, like whether you had Native American blood in you. When my daughter was accepted to a private college, lo and behold, there was a small scholarship available to anyone with Huguenot ancestry. You’d better believe we checked the right box, and gratefully received the help with college costs! Guess I’d better not run for office!

  • Chuck Arning

    Family stories are powerful sources of collective memory. Stories about who we are and why we act like old uncle Gustav are the bedrock of family. As kids we believe them. Why would my grandmother ever lie to me? So I find this entire discussion about whether Ms. Warren has any Native American blood in her to be ridiculous and terribly distracting from the real issues. And this concept of somehow “knowing” a person’s race(s) by visual identification is the height of ignorance at best, utterly racist at worst. However, I have learned a few things from this elongated discussion of Ms. Warren’s blood line, actual or not; 1) it is not what is important about this senatorial campaign & 2) the nice guy image that Senator Brown has worked so hard to cultivate has evaporated

  • datch

    Camp Tawonga? Aren’t ALL the boys Jewish there? :)

  • orangegenie1

    Frankly, just because Elizabeth Warren says she has Native American doesn’t mean she isn’t all because she’s ‘white-looking”. Scott Brown has no business using racism. What? Did he do her DNA? Along with being required to turn in taxes to be running in the race, what is he going to have genealogies and DNAs as a requirement too? She said she has Native American heritage, not that she’s flat out a Native American, nor did she say she was in a tribe. Many of us claim Native American heritage, but not to the extent of living on the reservation or elsewise. To say she’s exploiting “minority status” is exxagerated. We hear about “getting the Latino vote” and “swaying for the Jewish vote” but I hear nothing about Native Americans. If Elizabeth Warren is bring the Native Americans to attention, maybe that’s good. I have no idea if she has been working with them per se, nor have I heard if she is “luring the Native American vote”. Scott Brown went way overboard along with those dinkheaded rednecks in his staff whom showed racism. Brown already lost my vote for his despicable behaviour; very low-born and uncalled for. Idiots like him are why haters seem to come out of the woodworks and gives excuse to deny our country is comprised of mixed ethnicities and we’ve heard of the “melting pot” for many years. Is this Brown just discovering our most ancient people for the first time? I’m not surprised! Just another Mitt whom spent his life in the private sector to wonder why he’d be in a public office? He and his spewing staff are more fit to the caliber of the Jerry Springer show. Brown definitely lost my vote. And 16 others too whom were watching these nasty films of his hateful speeches.