Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, NY and Ansun Sujoe of Ft. Worth, TX tied for the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship. Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, MO was third and Ashwin Veeramani of North Royalton, OH was fourth. Each of the top four are Indian-American. In fact, the past eight winners and 13 of the past 17 champions have been of Indian descent, a run that began in 1999.
What can be concluded from the above? Could it be that Indian-Americans put a greater emphasis on spelling (or, perhaps, education) than other groups? In the sporting world such a run would be hailed as a dynasty. On the Internet it means it’s time to spew venom toward to champions - because “your kind” didn’t achieve victory.
Two such examples are: “wow that blows the spelling bee ends with a tie thats so friggin un-American no wonder the kids that won it are Indian” from Chris Uhl Jr. (@the_best_uhl_c) May 30, 2014. Wow, if that’s the_best_uhl_c, Chris, we can only imagine an opinion of yours that’s a shade under your “best.” It seems as though you’re saying that a tie is un-American, implying that if the finalists were “true Americans,” they would have spelled to the death until one was champion. And: “Nothing more American than a good spelling bee.. Oh wait all the Caucasians are eliminated” from Cale Pieczynski (@CalePie) May 30, 2014. Or was that from @CowPie? Do you mean, Carol, that the “foreign” words that must make up today’s spelling bees need to be replaced by the English ones that were used during the good old spelling bees from your youth (when the Caucasians would win)?
What’s surely to appear next is a group of protestors, picketing or starting a letter-writing campaign, stating their heritage is being disparaged. They take offense that just because their children aren’t capable of spelling “big words” that it means “their people” don’t value education as much as Indian-Americans. Those who level that charge against them have no idea the type of hardships they’d encountered, from having to fight racism (or, one that’s emerging, reverse racism) and poverty to looking different.
School administrators would be so frightened they’d call a meeting, attempting to downplay stereotyping the winners, all the while praising their own champions - even though in the majority of cases those winners also would be Indian-Americans. These (real) winners should not be confused with Native Americans who used to be called Indians until such groups (the complainers, not the Indians) protested so much no one was allowed to use that term any longer. Unless you lived in Cleveland, in which case, not only could you use the term but you were also encouraged to shell out mega-dollars to watch them play, often badly - which certainly does reflect negatively on the Indians (but not the Native Americans). It seems as though administrators and legislators are dividing the country in the name of unifying it, a testimony to politicians everywhere - each group favoring meetings ahead of accomplishing actual work.
The original article about the spelling bee co-champions stated that although they shared a single trophy onstage for the picture-taking, each would get one for himself, plus the champion’s purse of more than $33,000 in cash and prizes. This would infuriate other groups who would surely take umbrage at how insensitive this action would be to the rest of the participants. Should they not be receiving some type of award (a trophy or plaque or certificate - undoubtedly, with a word misspelled), so their self-esteem wouldn’t be irreparably damaged? No one seemed to be bothered that neither of the winners could spell “corpsbruder” or “antegropelos,” mistakes I would bet would ruminate with them a lot longer than whatever word eliminated the contestants who bowed out in the early rounds.
What is so sad is that, in this day and age, the Chris Uhls and Cale Pieczynskis of the world aren’t infinitely more disturbed that “Caucasians” perform so poorly at, in this case, spelling bees than Indian-Americans. Also disappointing is that, rather than denigrate winners (in disciplines where ethnic groups other than theirs perform better) why they wouldn’t collaborate with them in order to raise overall skill levels.
Could it be because we desperately want, in our country, to achieve the impossible - to have no one lose? It’s accepted in sports, albeit not always so graciously, and while feelings get hurt, the participants deal with it (and usually come out better and more determined to succeed in the future).
In situations like these, one person who always made sense without ever offending another soul was Mohandas Gandhi. He said:
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”