Each year I look forward to seeing the face of the new spelling bee champion. This year was no exception. Generally speaking, that face is not of German, French, Hungarian, or Italian-origin. No, the face each year of the National Spelling Bee Champion is generally Indian-American or Asian. I always wonder why and how that is that Asians can spell words of Latin, Greek, French, German and Italian origin better than the children of the immigrants from those countries.
Growing up in this country as a first generation American, I often faced a barrage of put-downs and often, people would assume that I would have an accent. My family and I were teased as if we all had the stereotypical accent of Apu from the 7-11. Not to down slurpees, but come on! Sometimes, after I would talk with someone, that person would say to me, “wow, you do not have an accent at all.” They looked astonished and confused. To which I would think to myself, why would someone presuppose that I would have an accent? Oh, yeah, my skin is brown but I speak better English than you and you are white. These are the thoughts that would cross my mind. I remember people talking loud to my parents as if they were deaf, rather than from another country with an accent. It was annoying to watch and even more frustrating to hear. In some parts of America, immigrants still face these types of situations. After all, everyone should speak “perfect” English, right? I can tell you with 100% certainty that here in America, most Americans don’t even speak perfect English, and let’s not even go into southern accents.
Now, I watch year after year as children of immigrant parents, first generation (most of them) continue to win spelling bees and other renown competitions, and I am confident that Indian-Americans will continue to make their mark in American society through other means as well. We live in a different America than the one I grew up in. More and more, people are aware of different cultures and religions around them and yet there are still ignorant people out there who still judge people by the color of their skin or their national origin. I am confident that in the new America, these people are the minorities. We are minorities no more. I guess the point is that it’s time to re-evaluate what “national origin” really means anymore, because this is OUR country.