Most of us grew up with the term “melting pot.” We were told America was such because people from other nations had come here, seeking one thing or another. The integration of all those disparate folks into our country was accepted and contributed to our societal “melting.” At one time.
Well, it’s a “melting pot” no more.
Those that used to be “melted” have shown an increasing resistance to accepting the ways of a formerly mostly Caucasian culture, preferring their own and, in some cases, several degrees of separation. Which, for the most part, ain’t all bad. Most of the time.
A formerly “melted” society has, in fact, become a pluralistic society – not a single one i.e. “melted.”
Let’s work with one definition for pluralistic – Merriam-Webster. To wit: “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious or social groups maintain/develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.”
The subject came up at our house through one of my wife’s students. Barb teaches Master’s degree education classes online. Her work draws participants from over the world. This specific subject matter dealt with “ethics and pluralism” in a classroom setting.
To my surprise, most of her students came up with a certain commonality. That being, teachers must openly accept the differences of students; each student brings his/her own view to the conversation; teachers must not make student individuality less important but show that individuality contributes to the whole.
Those factors, taken together, don’t exactly define our nation as a “melting pot,” do they? To me, they speak to a pluralistic society where there are exact differences though they should be accepted “within the confines of a common civilization.” Pluralism defined.
Anyone who thinks this nation is the “melting pot” it may once have been hasn’t visited a major city recently. Take New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.. Black communities live mostly in one area, with their own radio – often TV stations – and newspapers. Black schools, churches and uniquely Black merchants and stores.
Or, there’s Miami, Phoenix and Houston. Latin. Latin music, radio, TV, markets, restaurants, stores, newspapers.
Or, Los Angeles and Seattle. You’ll find large Asian and Indonesian communities within those cities. Again, Asian and Indonesian music, stores, broadcasters, grocers, newspapers.
Separate and apart. But, all existing in an overall single community or city. Los Angeles. Seattle. Wherever.
Over the years, I’ve lived in some of those cities. Sometimes, I visited the inner-city communities. Sometimes, good vibes. BUT, I’ve been warned to “stay the Hell out” or “get out” or “go back where you came from, Whitey” in some of those locales.
I’ve also seen the reverse. Many times. Too many times. Blacks, Latins, Asians being treated badly, rudely, mockingly, and told by Caucasians to “go back where you came from.” Some even killed though many of those folks had been born here.
So, while we’re all expected to be “Americans,” there are lines within this former “melting pot” some Americans of a different culture often can’t cross. Indivisible lines called “societal” lines by those who study this phenomenon.
While these separate subdivisions of culture and race often work to the benefit of both the inner and outer communities, they can also work against the interests of both.
I’ve previously written of my inability to swear the “Oath of Allegiance” or to sing “America the Beautiful.” The words “liberty and justice for all” simply do not come. Because there isn’t. (Can you say, Colin Kaepernik?) And, we don’t have “alabaster cities gleaming” anymore and really haven’t had since our beginnings as a nation. We certainly don’t have “brotherhood from sea to shining sea” Nor do we have”shining seas.”
I mean no attempt to find good or bad in these separate-but-equal situations – only to use them to point out we no longer “melt” in the way we used to. If we ever did. If we are to define our country now it would seem “pluralistic” is a more accurate description.
One of Barb’s grad students came up with what I think is a spot-on definition of our country as it presently exists.
His submission about differences was right on point. And so simple. Think of a choir: soprano, alto, tenor, bass. All working individually with different notes but, together, working pluralistically.
Sort of “separate but equal.” In the classroom. As a country.