I’ve become tired of the term “melting pot” to describe the American population and societal make-up. “Melting pot” is supposed to define diversity and a rich cultural stew of human interaction. At one time, it was relevant. Immigrants came here and actually assimilated into the American cultural landscape. They melded without sacrificing their own historical roots.
Many congregated into communities of similarity. Like ethnic or economic (or both) status tended to congregate families into neighborhoods or even cities and towns. Thus the “Little Italys,” “Chinatowns,” “Little Odessas” found in large cities. And some cities even served host to specific populations. Hispanic/Latinos in south Florida, the American SouthWest and California, Scandinavians in Minnesota and Wisconsin…. you get the idea.
These folks contributed hugely to American success and prosperity and did so in no small part by their willingness to assimilate. They learned the language and retained their native tongues. They became Americans while remaining Chinese or Italian or Welch or whatever. America worked and America worked for these folks. We were much like an orange. Distinct segments, but all orange.
Then we moved to hyphenated Americans. Supposedly a bow to ones original heritage, Hyphenated-Americans actually distanced themselves from their Homeland – be it adopted or by heritage. (When I answer a survey or fill out a form that asked for ethnicity, I call myself a “British-American.” Naturally, there is no such category and it really causes a pause in the conversation.)
So now, with these cultural/ethnic distinctions, how is it that we’re a “melting pot?” The ingredients of a melting pot are mixed and forged together to form a common, consistent substance. The components of a true melting pot are indistinguishable. When the product of a melting pot is rendered, there are no hyphenated elements. It’s all one substance.
Is this the American “melting pot?” Hardly. We’re not even a “cultural soup” because even a soup, with disinquishable ingredients, has a common flavor.
We’re not a “melting pot” as long as our citizenry insists on distancing itself into individual components. e pluribus unum has lost it’s meaning.