Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) lamented the racism of her fellow white Americans Friday in a commencement speech at Morgan State University, a historically black college.
Admitting she is "not a person of color" after years of identifying as Cherokee, Warren focused on her economic message and how it ought to help disadvantaged minorities, the Washington Post reports. At the Baltimore college, she blamed America for failing to open doors for everyone and even overtly harming black people.
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"As a country, we need to stop pretending that the same doors open for everyone, because they don’t," Warren said. "I’m not a person of color. And I haven’t lived your life or experienced anything like the subtle prejudice, or more overt harm, that you may have experienced just because of the color of your skin."
Warren released a video earlier this year discussing the pride she has in her Native American ancestry and touting a DNA test result showing she had one Native ancestor 6-10 generations ago. She has seemed to backtrack from her initial message about this finding, which was that it vindicated her claim to being Cherokee in the face of criticism from President Donald Trump and others.
Warren’s speech at Morgan State hit on her familiar themes, such as reining in Wall Street, but she couched them in terms of racial injustice in America. One of her main topics was the financial crisis that hit at the end of George W. Bush’s administration.
"Millions of people — black, white, Latino, Asian — lost their homes. Millions lost their jobs. Millions lost their savings — millions, tens of millions, but not the people at the top," she said.
She equated systemic advantages for the wealthy to the social benefits enjoyed by white people.
"The bank CEOs just kept raking in the money," Warren said. "Two sets of rules: one for the wealthy and well-connected. And one for everybody else. Two sets of rules: one for white families. And one for everybody else."
Conservatives mocked Warren for rolling out her DNA results when she had such a distant claim to Native ancestry, while many in the media and her allies defended the decision. Later on, however, liberals largely came to the consensus that the DNA test was a misstep, as it angered Native American groups who prioritize tribal citizenship over genes. The whole episode has raised the question of whether her aspiration to run for president in 2020 is in trouble, as poll numbers in Massachusetts seem to indicate.