I generally don’t think it’s terribly interesting to point out someone else’s hypocrisy. Judging from the internet, mine is not a popular view. You’ll find all kinds of this style of argument, if you dare to look:
“How can you support X when you didn’t support Y?”
“How can you complain about A when B didn’t bother you?”
X, Y, A, and B can be anything you like, really. Claims of corruption in your party vs. comparable claims of comparable corruption in the other party. Trust in one scientific consensus and distrust in another one. Tolerating speeding but not jaywalking, I don’t know.
Too often, this is a bad move, as it exposes both parties’ hypocrisy (after all, if I support Y but not X, it doesn’t really put me in a good light to complain about someone else supporting X but not Y. If my claim is that X and Y are equivalent, then we’re both hypocrites.) Plus, I find it a bit dull. And worst of all, it doesn’t ever seem to move people, so it’s just fighting for fighting’s sake, which is basically my least favorite thing.
Isn’t it interesting that…
I just find it funny how…
This post is about plagiarism.
First, a story. Last week, I unwatched some internet drama unfold. I won’t name names, but here’s a brief recap: a white woman wrote some journaling prompts for confronting one’s relationship to racism. A black woman accused her of plagiarizing some of these prompts from her viral blog post from a few years back. The black woman asked for an apology in a specific form. The white woman complied.
Here’s what happened to me: when I looked at the black woman’s comparisons of the two posts, I didn’t see the plagiarism. I saw two sets of writings on the same topic, yes, but where the wording overlapped, I saw fairly general statements. I saw coincidence in syntax, in other words, not plagiarism. I was looking at it like a copyright lawyer.
But I kept paying attention, and finally I did see it. I finally heard and understood what the black woman was saying: the white woman took it upon herself to write journaling prompts about antiracism, and she did not credit the many black people who have articulated these concepts before her, even the ones who taught her these concepts.
It is irrelevant whether she wrote the sentences based on the black woman’s particular post or not. The white woman’s post itself is a problem: it arises from white people’s tendency to charge in and reinvent a wheel that black people have already been making.