Racism is not a thing of the past. Tiffany Martínez, a Latina student at Suffolk University in Boston, was accused and penalized for plagiarism when she got her research paper back. One comment on her marked up paper particularly stands out as her professor circled the word “hence” and wrote “this is not your word” underlining “not” twice. To add salt to the wound, the professor handed her back a paper she wrote and told her loudly in front of all her peers that, “This is not your language.”
Martinez, humiliated and frightened from the incident, checked her work to make sure it was not plagiarized and properly cited, which it was. “My last name and appearance immediately instills a set of biases before I have the chance to open my mouth,” the first-generation college student says. This only goes to show the oppression on students of minority backgrounds. The amount of prejudice that the academic environment holds against people of color is astonishing and discouraging.
In response to this, Martinez turned to social media and shared her paper with corrections with the caption, “I was hurt badly this morning and publicly humiliated in front of my peers by a professor. They assumed I plagiarized my paper because it sounded too scholarly. How many degrees do I need for someone to believe I am an academic?” Many people responded sympathetically and raised awareness against the discrimination on people of color in academic circles with the hashtag “Hence.”
It is astonishing how much racial stereotyping is still relevant today. One would assume that educated individuals would recognize the absurdity in assuming another’s intelligence based on their race. What can be said about the education system if people are being typecasted for their race and not their work ethic?
Martinez is losing hope on her aspiration to be a college professor after seeing such an unscrupulous gesture as it can be assumed that other professors hold the same ideals as Martinez’s professor. What this does is it discourages students from following their dreams and making an effort to achieve them regardless of their background. It creates a domino effect of students who do not think it is worth trying because their race or color hinders them from reaching their ambition. While Martinez’s story is the one that went viral, it is not a story that is rare.