Tiffany Martinez is a current senior at Suffolk University in Boston. Like most academics, she has aspirations that know no limits or boundaries. She hopes to one day earn a PhD and become a professor.
Martinez has the strength and fortitude to accomplish her goals. However, because she is a Latina, there will always be people trying to question her abilities.
On Thursday, Martinez was called to the front of her senior seminar course to receive a graded paper that she recently turned in. However, when her professor handed over the paper, she included a not-so-subtle racist comment.
“This is not your language,” her professor told her.
Unsure of what she meant, Martinez then looked at the paper and saw the professor had circled the word “hence” and had written, “This is not your word,” underlining “not” twice.
At the top of her paper, the professor had written, “Please go back & indicate where you cut & paste.”
The unidentified professor said all of this loud enough for the rest of the students to hear. Naturally, Martinez was humiliated afterward.
Several of her classmates asked if she was OK. The incident was so difficult, it even made Martinez question her own work.
“I spent the rest of the class going back through every single line, every single citation to make sure that nothing had been plagiarized, even though I knew I hadn’t,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Instead of letting the experience get her down, she decided to write another essay, this time on her personal blog.
In her post, “Academia, Love Me Back,” Martínez wrote about her experiences as both a first-generation college student and U.S. citizen. She honestly described what it feels like to be a minority in a world full of ambitious white academics.
“As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces,” she said in the blog.
“There are students who will be assumed capable without the need to list their credentials in the beginning of a reflective piece. How many degrees do I need for someone to believe I am an academic?” Martinez added.
She has not spoken with the professor since the incident, but has brought it to the attention of the chair of Suffolk University’s sociology department, who has launched an investigation.
“In reality, I am tired and I am exhausted. On one hand, this experience solidifies my desire to keep going and earn a PhD but on the other it is a confirmation of how I always knew others saw me,” Martinez wrote in her post. “I am so emotional about this paper because in the phrase 'this is not your word,' I look down at a blue inked reflection of how I see myself when I am most suspicious of my own success. The grade on my paper was not a letter, but two words: 'needs work.' And it’s true. I am going to graduate in May and enter a grad program that will probably not have many people who look like me. The entire field of academia is broken and erases the narratives of people like me. We all have work to do to fix the lack of diversity and understanding among marginalized communities. We all have work to do.”
(Photo: Tiffany Corin Martínez via Facebook)