You do not need a degree to point out blatant racism. However, it seems that with a degree (and a teaching position), you do gain the ability to spot plagiarized work based off one word. Specifically, the transitory word ‘hence.’
Tiffany Martínez had been publicly humiliated by her professor for plagiarism — an act of which she hasn’t been proven guilty. Teachers are the authority of the classroom, but that authority has extended to permissibly accusing students of plagiarism without any basis other than their personal judgment. The last I checked, opinion does not formally constitute as fact.
The sociology major was called out for using the word “hence”, circled and accompanied by the allegation “this is not your word.” The rest of the literature review was discarded, paragraphs of sociological theories and terms thrown out the window because a teacher believed the language was of too high a standard to have been hers. Tiffany’s work was claimed to have only been drawn up by “cut & paste.” Her essay was not marked with a grade but with the phrase “needs work.” The storm left behind a hurting student deep in self-doubt she had worked to overcome.
An investigation into Tiffany’s case has begun, but hers is not the first of its kind. Papers and books such as Presumed Incompetent (a collection of narratives and studies by over 40 authors) detail and analyze the struggle of people of color (PoC), especially women of color, in excelling in the world of academia. A study conducted in 2012 showed that prospective students with Caucasian-sounding male names were 26% more likely to be granted an interview than names that indicated they were minorities or women.
A survey in 2014 conducted among 22 PoC academics show they felt excluded and experienced “constant undermining and criticism of their work.” A University of Southern California professor found that “Since 1998, 92% of white males who were considered for tenure got it. During the same period of time, only 55% percent of women and minority candidates were granted tenure.” The lack of coverage on this issue proves it’s status as the taboo it is said to be. But as shown through Tiffany’s case, it continues to occur to this day.
As a person born into a country where English is not everyone’s native language, it has surprised many people that my speech is as good as it is. I never understood what exactly was so alarming, because at the end of the day, English is just a language; a collection of words we use to relay messages between one another. It can be taught and it can be learned.
In our globalized world English, nor the mastery of it, is exclusive to a certain race.
To think someone so beneath yourself due to race that “hence” is enough proof of plagiarism is inherently racist and arrogant. Hence, racism continues to plague the world of academia.