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Spelling Race

Sai Vishudhi Chandrasekhar of New York, New York, during the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals on May 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

It’s the week of the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee, in which 285 Americans under 15 are vying to become national speller-in-chief. But amidst the fanfare that surrounds the Scripps competition, airing in part today on ESPN, is the prevalence of two problematic race-based narratives that arise without fail each year.

The

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Who Gets to Be American?

Remember Sebastien De La Cruz? He’s that 11 year old Mexican American singer who performed the National Anthem to open game 3 of the NBA final in a traditional mariachi outfit. Here’s his picture.

Cute kid, right? Also a great talent. But, apparently a brown kid in a Mariachi suit isn’t very cute to some of us, particularly if that kid happens to be singing the National Anthem on network TV.
Rather than celebrate the whole “nation of immigrants” thing and acknowledge that all of us are wearing some sort of national costume from another country, usually Europe, racists reacted,
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