Zaila Vanguard’s victory at Spelling Bee sends an exuberant message (opinion)
While this step was taken to ensure smooth television broadcasting, it can also be seen as an acknowledgment of the inequality of this playing field. When I spoke with J. Michael Durnil, executive director of Scripps National Spelling Bee, he called the measure a “ramp to equality.”
By recognizing that not all children who wish to participate in the Bee have equal access to the Internet, the Bee could open up a whole new set of possibilities. What if, each year in the future, the first rounds of the contest could include remote participation for those unable (for financial or other reasons) to participate in person? What if, in future contests, they provided these distant participants with the technological capabilities necessary to participate equally in the contest?
It may seem absurd to offer spelling scholarships at a time when many children lack educational resources. Yet tackling inequalities in education as well as extracurricular activities is a viable way for society to take action to tackle racism and white supremacy. The alternative is to perpetuate the exclusion and elitism upon which spelling is based. While this educational contest is open to all children, it has historically rewarded racially and economically privileged children.
Let us use this period of economic and racial calculation to determine not only who can afford to participate in this competition, but also who counts as an American. Almost everyone’s reality has changed and we find ourselves in a time of potential and potentially intentional transformation. A racially diverse bee in which children were given increased access to technology, coaching, and support would not only create a more inclusive dynamic, but would also help transform its focus into one that new generations of Americans can feel. a sense of belonging.