The Myth of the Melting Pot

No one used this “melting pot” term until 1908 when it was incorporated into a stage play.  The author of the play was Israel Zangwill, and his story was about a Russian Jew who wanted to move to America to escape anti-Semitism.  But long before Zangwill, people did migrate to the United States seeking a better life.  We recall the various “waves” of immigrants, starting with the Puritans and Pilgrims in the 1600s.  And then the French Revolution sent tens of thousands to North America (many settling in Canada).  Famine propelled Irishmen, who as it turned out, were never welcomed to America’s shores because they were Catholic.

And then the Asians arrived because American businesses needed cheap labor.  Eastern Europeans followed two great wars — and everyone arrived carrying their own baggage, so to speak.  People don’t stop being Catholic, Buddhist, or Hindu, simply because they move to a predominantly protestant country.  Jews didn’t stop believing in Communism simply because they left Russia (or many other parts of Europe).  No, they all brought their baggage with them … and to accommodate these diverse people, who share almost nothing in common, some Americans began talking about America as a melting pot, a place where we can all just lose our spots and stripes and become something else.

Image Source: Creighton University

It doesn’t work that way.  People who move from one part of the world to another take with them every bit of who they once were, and they hold on to it because it represents who they once were.  This is important to most people, no matter where they come from.  In America, no one gave anyone else an even break.  Protestants snubbed Catholics, Anglos snubbed Scots and Irish, no one wanted to live next to an Italian, everyone hated the garlic smell on the breath of Romanians, the Polish were always too loud, the Russians were mostly Jews, and on-and-on it went.  It wasn’t long before people began living in “ethnic neighborhoods.”  Black people there, Czech’s somewhere else — and to sort it all out, we invented clever names for all these neighborhoods: Micks, Wops, Spics, Niggers, Canucks, Jews, Chinks, Japs, Gooks, Krauts, Mackerel Snappers, and on it went …

The truth is, there was never a melting pot.  There was only opportunity to despise others for who they were, where they came from, how they worshipped, how they took their afternoon tea, and how they voted.  It is certainly true that there is no shortage of hate in the world — and no one makes a better case for the prevalence of hate than Americans.  We would have noticed this hate a lot sooner if America was a smaller place.

In the interest of improving these naturally hateful enclaves, the government began changing rules and laws about predominantly ethnic neighborhoods.  It became illegal discrimination to refuse to sell a home to others because of their skin color or ethnicity.  We even had to begin busing children from their neighborhood schools to schools all the way across town — again, to accommodate racial and ethnic groups, to break them up, scatter everyone around.  All with marginal results, of course.

Why was the best these government officials could do was produce marginal results?  The answer is simple: no one changes their spots or their stripes.  Ever.  Not permanently, anyway — and never completely.  This is why we have mixed neighborhoods today turning on one another.  Blacks, who affiliate with racialist groups (Black Lives Matter, for example) channel their contempt and their hatred toward whites toward their white neighbors.  And we have whites who, in believing they are not racialists, reject the arguments of the BLM crowd — and do so “in their face.”  Violence is the result.  No one should be surprised by this because everyone knows the truth about America.  They just don’t want to acknowledge it — and no one will say it aloud.  America is not now, has never been, and never will be a melting pot.

No, don’t rely on anything I’m saying.  Ask others — such as the strange case of Julissa Natzely Arce Raya — an illegal alien who gained dreamer status, became an American citizen, and who steadfastly refuses to “assimilate” American culture.  One may revile her stance on this, but you do have to admire her honesty.  She doesn’t buy into racial or ethnic assimilation — and won’t.  Why should anyone “give up” who they are — particularly when doing so forces one to live a lie?

The fact is that we human beings do not trust others of our own kind — not even if we were born of the same kinds of parents, were raised in the same neighborhood, attended the same church, went to the same school, and worked together as adults doing the same exact thing.  Then, when you add in such differences as red hair, freckles, darker skin, flatter nose, wider lips, double chin, gold fillings in your teeth, cornrows, slanted eyes, different church, different body shape or type, then you’re talking about wary looks and pure anti-ethnic levels of distrust and standoffishness.

There is no melting pot.  There never was.  There are kind people in every human group, of course, but they are the exception to the rule.  Percentage-wise … I’d argue no more than 20 percent.  So then, the first step in accepting this reality is to have no great expectation of any marvelous outcome of the merging of human groups.  Forget it.  Instead, try this: be courteous to everyone, but take no guff from anyone.  It’s the best we can hope for.     

7 thoughts on “The Myth of the Melting Pot

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  1. The freedom to practice cultural diversity without government intervention, persecution, or oppression [Emphasis mine].”

    That statement is the crux of the idea of a melting pot that never came to fruition. There has always been government intervention on the local front as well as federally. For example, when my grandmother came to the US in 1916 store owners, what we used to call the “ma and pa stores” were not allowed to have signs in their native languages. If they did they faced being fined, losing their business, and even deportation. There is persecution involved in the government making that sort of demand on the people to assimilate and it is a form of oppression. It is also intolerance.

    Today we see the opposite. This government and businesses are bending over backward to appease all races and nationalities, in particular the Latino community. Things change over the generations.

    As for the “melting pot” myth, I too wrote on this subject and it is a fallacy. This may be a nation, but it is far from being a melting pot of anything but a huge mess of slop and selfishness and government intervention by influencing the citizenry with their propoghanda.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You raised an interesting issue in your store front example.

      Was it wrong for government to demand that store owners have signs in English?

      We had this exact issue out west in the city of Monterey Park where businesses wanted to have Chinese signs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is wrong for government to demand anything that is not specifically accorded to them in the US or State Constitution. But I have never seen an Asian restaurant that did not have foreign words displayed on the store front. Who knows what those Chinese or Japanese characters say? I don’t. Maybe they say, “You honky’s really suck!”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Personally I see nothing wrong with having signs in English and ones native language above or below so the consumer can see both for those still learning English. Unlike many Americans most foreigners or immigrants speak some English. Americans are very illiterate speaking only one language, English. I personally don’t care what language one wants to learn, but learn a second language one does not know when it would come in handy. Most of my family speaks a second language including myself. My dad and aunt when alive each spoke five different languages.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mustang,
    I love the last two sentences of your essay:

    Instead, try this: be courteous to everyone, but take no guff from anyone. It’s the best we can hope for.

    That is the way to live our lives as citizens, IMO.

    Earlier in your essay, you typed in the following: Why should anyone “give up” who they are — particularly when doing so forces one to live a lie?

    Forcing someone to live a lie always results in serious issues, including unmanageable anger and mental problems.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. AOW… you stated “Forcing someone to live a lie always results in serious issues, including unmanageable anger and mental problems.”

      I would 100% agree.

      But then how do we handle the question of assimilation that so many in our country want? How does a devout Muslim or a Hindu assimilate into the US without giving up a little bit of who they are?

      Or should they not even bother?

      As one who spends considerable time in another country and culture, I work hard to understand they place. But nothing I can do is ever gonna get me the “I have assimilated I am one of you” cards.

      No matter how hard I try, or work at it, at the end of the day, I’m still a gabacho, a gringo.

      It’s a tough issue to work through.

      At the end of the day, all I do is fall back on my faith that says this life, this country, this place is not my place. I am an alien here. Because my citizenship is elsewhere.

      It makes all of this a bit easier. Not easy mind you, just easier.

      Like

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