Do We Fear The Melting Pot?
Do We Fear The Melting Pot?
America is a “melting pot”. A place where cultures collide, diverge and connect – creating a unique lifestyle, attitude, and culture that cannot be found anywhere else. This idea is present in almost all forms of American education and history.
History classes, in particular, often focus on the idea that America was a land of opportunity for immigrants, and that migrants came to America in search of a better life – of a place where they could truly be free to build their own lives, away from their own governments. This myth often takes place in New York City, on Ellis Island – where over 12 million immigrants made their way into the United States over several decades.
And America certainly is a melting pot. African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American people all make their home here – and over the years, the influence of these diverse cultures has certainly changed our landscape.
But this process has been far from the smooth. American history books would have you believe that all of the minorities who came here did so out of their own free will – but this is not the case.
America may be a melting pot, but it’s far from perfect – and the treatment of migrants not just in days past, but in modern times, is proof of this. Let’s take a deeper look at the idea of America as a melting pot now.
America As A Nation Of Immigrants – Separating Fact From Fiction
Is America a nation of immigrants? The answer is “yes” – no matter what your definition of immigrants may be. The pilgrims who first colonized America were certainly immigrants – but given their advanced technology and desire to expand throughout the country, they quickly eclipsed the native population, and wiped out many native people’s entirely.
And even if you don’t count the Pilgrims as immigrants, The United States has certainly benefitted from extensive immigration – but this immigration wasn’t always by choice.
The most obvious example of this is the African slave trade, but issues like American expansion into Mexican territories, and the importation of Asian immigrants or “coolies” for cheap labor while building railroads are other examples of immigrants who were treated poorly by Americans – and who was never fully accepted as people, but only as unskilled laborers.
These immigrants were discriminated against, treated poorly, and generally looked down upon by the majority-white Americans of the time – and though much has changed in the past several hundred years, anti-immigrant sentiment is still common among many Americans.
Our diversity makes us strong, but not all immigrants are accepted equally – and some are outright rejected. This can be seen, most recently, in the Syrian Civil War. These desperate people need a place to call home, but only 36% of all Americans support allowing Syrian migrants into our country.
We are a nation of immigrants – but even today, not all immigrants are accepted equally.
Differences Breed Strife – Or Understanding
Differences can bring us closer together – or tear us apart. It all depends on attitude. The attitude of an individual is what can make the difference between a cultural connection – or outright hostility.
If you are pro-immigration, you may respond to a new immigrant with compassion, friendship, and understanding. You will want to hear their story, and listen to their dreams and hopes – and perhaps even help them along this path. While you do so, you will empathize with them, allowing for cross-cultural understanding.
However, anti-immigration attitudes foster the opposite. Everything that an immigrant does is seen as threatening or foreign. Their different tastes, styles, and culture make some people feel attacked. “They’re living in my country,” they may say. “Why aren’t they acting like me? Why are my country’s traditions not enough?”.
This represents the true conflict at the heart of the “melting pot”. Some people want to experience cultural diversity and are more than willing to allow migrants to practice their own cultures.
Others don’t wish for the “melting pot” to melt at all. They believe that migrants should practice their own cultures in private – and when in public, they should act like Americans, and avoid speaking their own languages or practicing their own culture in public.
Can We Learn To Live Together? Or Will We Always Be Apart?
Is America a melting pot? Absolutely. We have one of the widest ranges of ethnicities present in any country. However, it’s important to realize that many of these ethnic minorities and cultures have been unfairly discriminated against in the past – and may not have come to America by choice.
In the end, the choice is ours. We can learn to live together and merge our cultures, or we can isolate ourselves – leaving each cultural minority to connect only with each other.
But what do you think? Can our diverse nation overcome our differences and truly create the “melting pot” that’s the subject of American myth? Or do our attitudes and cultural differences mean that a true merging of cultures is impossible? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
© 2017 Elgin Carter