Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I'm 26% Native American! Should Washington Care?

Granted, I don't see a lot of commercials on TV, since almost everything I watch is DVRed and then replayed, with the commercials fast-forwarded through.  It's a pleasant TV life that I wouldn't trade for very much.

But there is one commercial that I have seen a few times, and which suddenly struck me in a curious way after the fourth or fifth viewing this past week.

Ancestry.com, as you may know, is a website originated by an organization with roots in the Mormon church.  Our friends in the LDS community have beliefs in their denomination that have driven them to document incredible quantities of genealogical information, from censuses to ship manifests to military records to Lord-knows-what-else, and index it so that you can find out a lot about your ancestors and mine.

Ancestry.com has a search capability that lets you find all that data, in a reasonably efficient manner.  I have a subscription myself, which I use often for research in my role as a member of the Historical Archives Committee of the Barbershop Harmony Society.  Having the subscription, I can also look up things like why my wife's great-grandparents came over from Italy on separate ships even though they were married.  You get the idea (for the record, it was a common practice back then for the husband to go over first and prepare a home).

But I digress.

So Ancestry also has a capability for DNA testing.  You send them a DNA sample, and they come back and tell you the percentage breakdown of your ancestry by country of origin.  Very cool.  I have never done it, because I don't really care all that much.  In fact, I wrote this piece a while back, explaining why I though people should take more pride in what they themselves had done than in what their four-times-great-grandparent did.  Please do read it, I think it will be informative.

Anyway, last week I saw one of the Ancestry commercials, featuring a purported user who had done the DNA test and was astonished at the result showing her to be 26% American Indian.  "I never knew!", she exclaims in the ad.

So my best girl turned to me and said "Whoopee, now she can open a casino!"  And I replied "Better, she can open an Indian-owned government contracting company."  And that's when I got really concerned, and curious.

If you didn't know -- and you should have -- "Native American" is a special category of company that can do business with the Federal government without competition in certain cases.  Now, presumably that is to atone for past discrimination or something, to help Indians get an opportunity to grow companies and escape poverty.

But how is that even defined?

Here is this lady, for example, who never even knew she was Native American, so how could she ever have been the victim of discrimination?  Yet now she can start a company and get no-bid Federal contracts just by waving around a DNA test!

I admit it; I am not a fan of small business set-asides in general, and am very much an opponent of race-based set-asides, such as the 8(a) contracting program that allows only people of certain races to bid on them.  I wrote that here and even better here; there is far too much capacity for abuse of the program.

And how much clearer is that potential for abuse when someone who we know has never been discriminated against for being Native American, can go make money off of recompense for discrimination she never suffered?

President Trump needs to have one of his experts (or me) look into the whole set-aside program as reverse discrimination that needs to be completely overhauled to ensure it addresses the issue and only the issue, and eliminates fraud (like this) -- and eliminates this kind of potential abuse.

Unfortunately, you heard it here first.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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  1. Can we get Elizabeth Warren to take the test? We really need to know in case she runs for president.

    1. I think she has consistently declined. There is absolutely nothing in it for her, of course!