America: The Melting Pot or The Salad Bowl
In 1492 the first known explorers set foot on what is known as the United States today. From the beginning of the history of the United States it has always been known as the place where people seeking religious freedom, economic gain, enslavement, and to escape debtor’s prison. The England’s American colonies were a group of diverse people who settled in America escaping religious persecution in Europe. Columbus came and thought he was in Asia, hence the reason he name Native Americans Indian Americans. As time went on, more and more people came to the U.S for different reasons and soon it became a country of immigrants. The integration of the different cultures were became a big deal. Since Europeans “discovered” America first every immigrant was expected to integrate into the so called American culture. Which was at the time a western version of European culture. Being American meant leaving everything behind including cultures, in order to assimilate into the “American culture”. Ironically, the American culture is made up of different cultures.The melting pot in early American history was crucial in helping America realize it is more of a salad bowl than a melting pot.
The melting pot: the assimilation of different cultures into the American culture. Being truly “American” meant acting and behaving in a certain way. In 1908, Israel Zangwill, a British writer wrote a stage play called The Melting Pot (see Fg1). Figure 1 is an image from the cover of the play. Its shows how different people migrated to America but when they get to the land they all enter the pot and assimilate to become American. Little did Zangwill know his play will be the source of a metaphor used for America itself: the melting pot. The play depicts the life of a Russian Jewish immigrant family, who survived a program in which members of their family were killed.The play was a powerful piece but was interpreted wrongly. Zangwill was often frustrated when his play was misinterpreted. He viewed America as a place where Jewish refugees could prosper without having to relinquish their religious identity. Zangwill once said; ” The process of American amalgamation is not assimilation or simple surrender to the dominant type, as is popularly supposed, but an all-round give and take by which the final type may be enriched or impoverished.” The melting pot became a term used to describe the flow of immigrants moving to the United States. This term affected the people of the time greatly. Here they were moving halfway across the world in hopes of starting new lives where they could practice their religion freely and yet they were being forced to assimilate and forget their culture. The different cultures didn’t matter anymore so long as every spoke the same language, thought the same thoughts, dressed the same way, and totally lost their ownself. This metaphor especially affected the Japanese-American trying to become 100% American, boarding school that tried to civilize Native American children and African-Americans who might not have had the chance to assimilate during the era of Jim Crow. Native American children were often forced to attend boarding school distance away from home. In 1879, an in the first Indian Industrial School opened in Pennsylvania. The ideal was to “Kill the Indian, save the man.” This was done in hopes of “civilizing” them to fit into the American culture. Schools taught Native American children English, dressed them in Western clothes and tried to convert them into Christianity. According to Tsianina Lomawaima, a Muskogee and an Indigenous Studies scholar at Arizona State University, “My family was “introduced,” shall I say, to Chilocco when my dad and his older brother were place there by order of the court.” Lomawaima’s grandma was a single Indian woman raising two kids by herself, and according to the standards of the court at the time she was deemed incompetent so Curtis, her dad, and Bob, her uncle, were sent to Chilocco. Curtis managed to get away or escape so to speak in 1935.
In a sense the attempt at the melting pot made America more of a boiling pot. There were many people who weren’t as pleased as others at the ideas of conformity. The idea that in order to be an American you had to be willing to give up your prior identity and assume a new persona: become American. Bill Maher states; ” if you’re going to come to the melting pot, melt a little. You’ve got to melt a little.” The whole idea of everyone having one culture made America more of a land of same instead of land of free. Though the melting pot was the first metaphor used to describe America it certainly was not the last.
The salad bowl: the integration of different cultures into unity without assimilation. Unlike the melting pot which indicated that everyone should melting to one, the salad bowl concept unfies the different cultures. It state that the America is full of unique cultures and it is the commonality of uniqueness that unites America. Not all cultures blend into one bowl of boiling hot soup but instead there are different pieces of differences which makes a whole salad. The United States have done a good job at evolving in a more accepting form instead of the traditional founding fathers concept of assimilation every individual into one culture. According to Victor Davis, a historian at Stanford University, “The United States steadily evolved to define Americans by their shared values, not by their superficial appearance.” The salad bowl is a much better metaphor used to describe America but is it an accurate one? While there are much better metaphors that could be used to describe America, the salad bowl is certainly the most recently accurate. It allows Americans to be who they are and share common values without being forced to fit into who they aren’t. Different countries have tried to their own versions of the salad bowl and while some countries such as Canada have successfully fulfilled this mission of uniting its people without assimilation, others have failed.
Canada has a rather interesting take on the whole melting pot idea. The mosaic: the mosaic is based on Canada’s belief that Canada as a whole becomes stronger by having immigrants bring their cultural diversity for all Canadians to learn from.They may contrast with one another, but together they form a portrait of the nation in the same way the dots on a pointillist painting convey a coherent image. Canada’s metaphor for unity is lesson to different counties on how acceptance of different cultures can come together to create a beautiful image.