September 06, 2012

(Not)able firsts at the DNC

Amongst the dignitaries on stage last evening in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention:

  • Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School professor, former advisor to President Obama, and Massachusetts senatorial candidate, claims Cherokee ancestry, and has been billed as the "first woman of colour" on the Harvard Law School faculty. In reality, Warren is no more Cherokee than she is Martian; she's been nicknamed "Fauxcahontas" by her critics, and the Indian delegates at the convention want to have a word or two with her.
  • Former president Bill Clinton, once hailed as the "first black president" by author Toni Morrison, because of his good relations with the black community and other superficial considerations, such as a love of jazz. He's no more black than Warren is Indian.
  • Finally, at the end of Clinton's speech, he was joined briefly by President Obama, recently described in a Newsweek cover story as the "first gay president." Go on, guess how gay he actually is. Someday, the U.S. will actually have a gay Democrat for president; I wonder what trumped-up distinction they'll have to resort to for him?

Symbolism, it seems, trumps the reality at the DNC.