A story in the Washington Post highlights the backlash Indian Americans have faced for a string of seven straight championships someone from their community has won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“The kids in the spelling bee should only be AMERICAN,” read one tweet.
“We need an American to win this spelling bee #tiredofindians,” read another.
“We certainly followed the coverage last year,” said Paige Kimble, Director of the competition. “We are aware of Twitter posts that are not nice, that indicate that we have a long way to go as a country in embracing all of our immigrant population.”
The article likened the success of Indian Americans in the competition to the success of runners from Kenya have had in the Boston Marathon. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, there has not been a similar backlash against Kenyans.
Americans have long gotten used to the success of Black athletes and have come to embrace it. Such greats as Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson went through hell being the pioneers in their games. In a way the Indian Americans winning the spelling bee are now experiencing the same thing. It’s unfortunate that during their shining moment, they have to experience the sting of racism so early in their teenage years.
However, its likely they’ve felt that same sense of being an outsider at the playground or even their school yard. The difference is the Spelling Bee amplifies that discrimination on a national stage.
That doesn’t make it any less hurtful. Unfortunately, for some a spelling bee has become a lesson in R-A-C-I-S-M.