“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 added.”
If not all of us are aware from where this quote came from, let me give you some background story! A Latina student that goes by the name of Tiffany Martinez got her essay back and her professor told her “That is NOT your language.” in front of the whole classroom. The professor felt, that Tiffany’s language was too complex to be used by a Latina. When Tiffany was looking through her essay, the professor had circled the word “Hence” and commented, “This is NOT your word”. Tiffany Martinez decided to go public about the professor who discriminated against her.
Even in the 21st century there is still oppression in academic institutions due to the belief that we have learned and read about of people of color being considered less than and incapable of being scholars.
I must add in something extremely personal, those who know me, know that I carry my culture on my back and my native language on my tongue with nothing but pride. Hell, I have Puerto Rico’s silhouette tattooed on my rib cage! I am a PROUD Latina! However, being Latina in the United States is a never ending battle. I, myself have been discriminated against within the public school system many times when I moved from Puerto Rico. I have been told by my high school teachers everything you can imagine. My ultimate favorite line being “You are actually smart for being a Puerto Rican”. Comments that I have learned to pick and choose which ones to react to. However, recently I went through something that I just cannot seem to let go. I am currently, a sophomore at the University of Hartford, a double major in Criminal Justice and Political Science, also enrolled in the Honors program. This fall, I registered for an Honors Writing class, in which I felt confident going in to.When I walked into the classroom, I immediately realized that I was the only Latina and Spanish-speaker in the classroom. The professor came in and asked us to go around and say our name, major and a fun fact about ourselves. When it’s finally my turn I say, “I’m Nina Vazquez, I am a double major in Criminal Justice and Political Science. My fun fact is that I am originally from Puerto Rico, my first language is Spanish.”, pretty boring, right?! I thought it was, but the professor thought otherwise. After everyone was done with the icebreaker, the professor stands there and says, “Well, I need a writing sample from all of you. I need it, just in case SOME of you need to be lowered down to a BILINGUAL writing class.” Stuck me out like a sore thumb on that one. I sit there, stunned, embarrassed and very offended. But decided that I was not going to let a comment like that determine the year for me. I wanted to prove them wrong and show them that being bilingual does not mean I am less capable of writing, talking or thinking in another language that is not my native one. When it was time for the first essay to be due, I knew that I had to make an immaculate paper for this professor to prove myself just as good as the other students in that class. I spent 13 hours editing and revising this paper, going through every line to make sure they would not dock points off for anything. I handed it in confident enough, thinking that I was going to get a good grade. Sure enough…you guessed it, I failed it. When I tried asking for feedback, there was no logical reasoning for the grade I got. The professor flunked me because they thought, I shouldn’t have been in an honors class due to the fact that I was not born in the states nor that my first language was English. As a side note, the university does not even OFFER bilingual classes. This professor wanted to take away from my learning experience because I did not fit their criteria of what a passing student should look, sound, or be like. Even though, this professor made me question my intelligence and my learning capability. I realized that people like them are the reasons why I want to get my degree(s) and push myself, because success is the best revenge. Just like Tiffany Martinez and I there are probably 100 other Latinx or other people of color going through the same thing. If you consider yourself to fall under this category, I want to let you know that you are NOT alone. You are NOT dumb, You are NOT incapable, You are NOT what they make you feel like or say that you are. Get educated, get ambitious, love yourself and your roots, because that’s what they hate the most. Become active like Luisa Moreno, Jessie De La Cruz and Lucretia Mott. Make your voices heard and fight against the social constructed idea of “inferiority”. With that said, no one will ever deprive me from my education.
Source: Griffin, Tamera, “A professor circled “Hence” on a Latina student’s paper and wrote “This is not your word””. Buzzfeed, 2016.