Thursday was a big day for the two 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee finalists Ansun Sujoe and Sriram Hathwar.
The boys made history as they were declared the fourth co-champions in 89 years and the first since 1962.
However, not everyone was pleased with the children’s remarkable victory.
Some people on social media were outraged at the fact that the finalists of the competition were – wait for it – not Americans.
Posts full of ignorant, racist comments flooded Twitter as the participants – most of them of Indian origin – advanced to the final round.
The rant gained momentum and turned nastier after the winners were announced.
This vile reaction brings back bitter memories of the 2014 Miss America pageant whose winner, Nina Davuluri, was also loathed and criticized because of her Indian ancestry.
Hers was a historic win, too.
Davuluri became the first Indian-American to win the coveted crown, making it two wins for the city of New York in a row. But all of this wasn’t enough to satisfy her haters, who labeled the beauty queen an Arab and made insane connections to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Others went as far as establishing ties between the poor girl and al-Qaeda.
Although it seems like a trend to detest successful champions in American competitions, the response to this year’s spelling bee is a bit more disturbing primarily because Ansun and Sriram are just kids.
Is it really not shameful to scar their memorable victory with vicious racist backlash? Was it really necessary to make them feel like an outsider during the most important and unforgettable moment of their lives?
Also, in both Davuluri’s and the spelling bee champs’ case, the racists didn’t realize the fact that the winners are – as much as they would refuse to acknowledge – American citizens.
Ansun is from Fort Worth, Texas, while Sriram lives in Painted Post, N.Y. They are of Indian origin, but that certainly doesn’t make them any less American.
Last year’s spelling bee winner Arvind Mahankali, whose family is originally from Hyderabad, India, became the sixth consecutive Indian-American winner of the contest and the 11th in the past 15 years. Indeed it’s a record that deserves praise and encouragement.
Embrace it, don’t hate it.