As two youngsters of Indian descent spelled history by jointly winning the coveted Scripps National Spelling Bee for a record seventh year in a row, they also stirred storm of racially charged comments in the US.
The fact that Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe Thursday night kept up the victory run of Indian-Americans that began in 1999 producing a dozen champions in the last 16 years, proved too much for some of them.
Sujoe, 13, a 7th grader from Fort Worth, Texas and Sriram, 14, the lone repeat finalist of Painted Post, New York were declared co-winners after a gruelling duel in the final of a contest that attracted 281 spellers from eight countries.
It was “for the first time in more than 50 years, two young wordsmiths were declared co-champions” as the Washington Post noted.
“However, some on social media seemed more preoccupied with their heritage than their way with words.”
Among the tweets cited by the Post were: “Where are our American kids?”
And: “Nothing more American than a good spelling bee.. Oh wait all the Caucasians are eliminated – Cale Pieczynski (@CalePie).”
The Post also cited other comments on social media arguing “race has nothing do with where these spellers were born.”
“wow that blows the spelling bee ends with a tie thats so friggin un-American no wonder the kids that won it are Indian,” tweeted Chris Uhl Jr from Massachusetts.
Journalist Jeff Chu collected the tweets and commented; “Why did the tweets hit me hard? I was a bee kid-’91, lost on “rimur.” And I want those kids never to be asked, “Where are you really from?”
Another commentator Ezra Klein tweeted “Turns out spelling bees bring out a lot of racists: http://bit.ly/1kPI0n3.”
“….so according to these geniuses, only Caucasians are “American” when it comes to the spelling bee?” responded Nicole Forbes from Austin, Texas.
“Just because the face on the screen isn’t white, it doesn’t make the #spellingbee finalists any less American, commented Rebecca Hong.
“Oh come on!! What is so un-american about them? Not satisfied with their buttoned up T shirts and a bow tie?????” tweeted amkere.
“In the name of diversity and political correctness, don’t whites deserve affirmative action such as a spell checker app on their cell phone? NPR and ESPN can’t object to its political correctness,” responded Delongl.