What’s missing from this picture?

Have you seen the new AT&T’s broadband commercial that takes place at a regional spelling bee? It seems to be on every time I turn on my television. While the premise is cute, I always feel like something is missing whenever I watch it. Where are the Indian-American kids?

Since Balu Natarajan won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1985, Indian-American children have been entering spelling bees around the country in enormous numbers. So it is a bit jarring to see a portrayal of a modern day spelling bee without any South Asians at all.

Let’s take a closer look at this screenshot I took of the commercial:

I’ve been squinting at the above picture for the last 20 minutes and I can’t decide if the little boy with the glasses in the back is desi, so for the purposes of argument, let’s say that he is. Counting him, only one out of the seven children pictured was South Asian. Compare that to last year’s National Spelling Bee, where an astonishing 7 out of 11 finalists were Indian American. (Mini-biographies of the top ten finalists can be found here.)

Last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion was 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas. According to her official bio, Kavya was a spelling bee veteran, having “participated in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 national finals—tying for 10th, 8th, and 4th place, respectively.”

Watch the commercial below:


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