A Melting Pot or Tossed Salad
The great country of America is popularly known to be a nation that holds a plethora and variety of different cultures. Just about every country has a part in building the colorful image of the United States. “For centuries, the US has attracted people in search of a share of ‘the American dream’ from all corners of the world.”1 Immigrants come from Mexico, China, Germany, the UK, Africa, and many more. Each ethnic group has their own stories, customs, beliefs, manner and culture. But, there is a couple of opposing ideas of how diverse the culture of America really is. Some would say that the culture of America is one huge ‘Melting Pot’. Whereas, others would express that it is more diverse and sports more individualism, labeling that notion as the ‘Tossed Salad’.
What is the “Melting Pot” and the “Tossed Salad”?
These are the two most popular terms for describing American Culture. The Melting Pot was coined by a immigrant by the name of Israel Zangwill.2 In a quote from himself, he described his vision.
“…where a thousand mammoth feeders come from the ends of the world to pour in their human freight. Ah, what a stirring and a seething—Celt and Latin, Slav and Teuton, Greek and Syrian, black and yellow….” ~ Israel Zangwill
He encouraged immigrants to become assimilated and form a new American identity.
Another word that relates to the theory of the “Melting Pot” is assimilation. Through, assimilation, a group adopts the customs and manners of another. Usually, the majority party absorbs the party of the minority,
Through assimilation, we take in new information or experiences and incorporate them into our existing ideas. The process is somewhat subjective, because we tend to modify experience or information somewhat to fit in with our preexisting beliefs.3
So, in idea, the Melting Pot theory is based on having a shared culture having many facets of differing cultures into one single image or culture.
On the other hand, there is the Tossed Salad. What this implies, is that there are many diverse traits that make every place in America unique in culture and manner. Those who support this idea, think of the people as a people that refuses to be assimilated into “one homogenous social stew.”4 And this a fairly recent term that has become popular among conversations and discussions of social life.
Multiculturalism is the acceptance of multiple ethnic cultures at the organizational level. This is applied to the demographic make-up of a country, where people from different religious backgrounds, countries and tradition are given equitable status in schools, neighborhood, cities and nations.5
This is the technical term. This continues to be debated and used to set boundaries and to elaborate on the intent of what American culture is to be.
So, this is the argument, the cultural situation of America. It has drawn lines, caused contention, aroused many to violence and continues to stir the minds of those affected. And none is exempt, for this is a social issue. Everyone is affected one way or another, through the behaviors and attitude of discontentment. The issue is volatile in some places and mild in others, but it must come to the understanding of all the people of the United States of America to see the perspectives of all groups, cultures, history and ideals to make more reasonable and peaceful discussions. So, briefly these words will be used to give aid in looking at this situation in a new light.
Are We a “Melting Pot”?
In the early history of culture recognition of different cultures, it was common to refer to the culture of America as the Melting Pot.
For many years the image of a”melting pot” was used to describe the experience of immigrants coming to America. The expectation was that as people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions make their way to our country, a sort of American cultural crucible would melt away all the differences…6
“And at some levels [this] has happened. [Additionally], technology has provided a nice blending together of cultures around common language and activities involving cell phones, the Internet and so on.”7
It is much more than evident with the Caucasians. Many people of European descent have been blended together and formed a single culture over time.
The melting pot theory…revolves around the analogy that “the ingredients in the pot (people of different cultures and religions) are combined so as to lose their discrete identities and yield a final product of uniform consistency and flavor…8
Surely, such an idea would unify and bring people together. Or some would think. There are many who oppose such an idea. In an effect there are many societies that separate themselves, rather outright, from the typical lifestyle of other Americans.
Could We be a “Tossed Salad”?
There have been recently some heated debate that the American culture is actually entirely varied and has no single unifying identity. There many reasons to prove why this is. For the most obvious reason, the people of America are extraordinary diverse in race, color and heritage. “Each culture provides its own special and irreplaceable contribution to our understanding of America today…”9
There is much that would provoke immigrants to feel that this analogy is more appropriate. It can even cause people to become defensive and somewhat hostile.
American culture remains a powerful force – for better or worse – that influences people both here and around the world in countless ways. But several factors have combined in recent years to allow immigrants to resist, if they choose, the Americanization that had once been considered irresistible.10
In a more bitter way, some would say that assimilation is merely a way to teach immigrants the way of all Americans. A few Sociologists described the “Melting Pot” theory as a means of “Anglo conformity.”11
There are also some races and ethnic groups that have resisted the idea of surrendering their heritage in exchange for the common American’s. One such, was the Mexicans.
It’s important for our children not to be influenced too much by thegueros,” she said, using a term that means “blondies” but that she employs generally in reference to Americans. “I don’t want my children to be influenced by immoral things.”12
From this account, the “American” culture is viewed as an entity to avoid being in contact in respect to ideals and customs.
The Culture of America
But the culture of America isn’t something that anyone can avoid. It is constantly everywhere, and directs its influence through many channels of information. And to generally speak of it all as something horrible, simply speaks ignorant. They fail to see the promising nature of a shared culture. It is a culture comprised of different aspects, yet it also respects the identity of unique smaller cultures.
…if you push this notion[,the “Tossed Salad”] too far, you end up with a situation where there is no evolution of a culture. If cultures truly remain separate and distinct, there can be no evolution that occurs from the exposure and exchange with other different cultures. Instead, as time passes, all that you really have is a conglomeration of old cultures, with no blending or development.13
Truly, to think only that this idea of the “Tossed Salad” should exist in the extreme, nothing will develop and culture will remain stagnant and dead. There will always be a “Melting Pot”, somewhat. And the “Tossed Salad” isn’t likely to fade much anytime soon. The culture of America is something entirely different from the rest of the world.
So, what can we use to describe the overall culture of America? There are distinctions and there are also similarities. Yet, to simply call our culture either or would not be enough to fully describe the entirety of the American culture.
Our country is often described as a melting pot where immigrants from a variety of countries and cultures “melt” together to become Americans. Today, some people prefer the idea of America as a “stew” or “tossed salad.” Like the ingredients of a salad, people from diverse backgrounds mix and blend together but never lose their distinct, individual qualities.14
To really describe the American culture, one cannot satisfy the understanding of it through the analogies of a “Melting Pot” or a “Tossed Salad” for it is really something of a mix of these. Perhaps, comparable to and “Ethnic Stew.”15
It can be somewhat mixed, yet in other parts completely unique. For instance, consider this. There are two Chinese restaurants, both serve rice, various chicken plates, egg rolls and soups. Yet, one serves a custom variation that would be accepted by those of the unfamiliar majority, and the other serves more closely to the traditions of the country of origin. All the while they are only a few minutes drive apart from another.
Although there will be many who see assimilation to be a complete evil, there is some sense to the conformity and submissiveness to the change of culture.
In America…assimilation has not meant repudiating immigrant culture. Assimilation, American style has always been much more flexible and accommodating and, consequently, much more effective in achieving its purpose–to allow the United States to preserve its “national unity in the face of the influx of hordes of persons of scores of different nationalities,”17
This describes that assimilation is actually a stabilizing force and can help others to an equal understanding.
Just as important, is the value of the heritage of immigrants of each unique origin. These cultures can enrich our perspectives and give light to unique ideas.
The culture of America is always changing, never settling long and always seeking to bring diversity and intrigue to the common people. This makes the United States a country with a bounty of influential and rich ideas, inspiring others to create something that hasn’t existed before. “Bagels and pizzas and spaghetti were new things at one time… immigrants come and change America and are changed by America.”20 These influences nurtures the ability to create, and with such creativity, the culture and dream of America becomes that more real. But, to sit on the stagnant and narrow-mindedness of being either a “Melting Pot” or “Tossed Salad” will only bring conflict and will cease to bring out the creative nature of man. So, dare to forget the ‘salad’ and ‘pot’, and ponder on the variety and colorful landscape of The Great American Culture.
1,2. BBC News. “’Melting pot’ America” 12 May 2006.
3. Cherry, Kendra. “What is Assimilation?” About.com
4. Evans, Jim. “America as Melting Pot? We’re Really More of a Tossed Salad” EthicsDaily. 26 June 2009.
5. Sengupta, Saptakee. “Multiculturalism in America” Buzzle. 5 June 2010.
6,7. Evans, Jim. “America as Melting Pot? We’re Really More of a Tossed Salad” EthicsDaily. 26 June 2009.
8. Gloor, Leana B. “From the melting pot to the tossed salad metaphor: Why Coerc” Hohonu. 2006, Volume 4, Number 1.
9. World and I School. “Diversity in America”
10,11,12. Branigin, William. “Immigrants Shunning Idea of Assimilation” Washington Post. 25 May 1998.
13. Lubuguin, Fernand, Ph.D. “Beyond Melting Pot and Tossed Salad” The Society for Descriptive Psychology. 24-27 September 1998.
14. Atkins, Holly. “An American ‘tossed salad’” St. Petersburg Times. 17 December 2001.
15. Gloor, Leana B. “From the melting pot to the tossed salad metaphor: Why Coerc” Hohonu. 2006, Volume 4, Number 1.
16. Dahler, Al. “At its best, diversity strengthens; never divides” News Leader. 26 July 2011.
17. Salins, Peter D. “Assimilation, America Style” Reason. February 1997.
18. World and I School. “Diversity in America”. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
19. Williams, Juan. “The Changing Face of America” Talk of the Nation. 25 January 2001.
20. BBC News. “’Melting pot’ America” 12 May 2006.
Atkins, Holly. “An American ‘tossed salad’” St. Petersburg Times. 17 December 2001. Retrieved 20 July 2011. [Online Journal]; http://www.sptimes.com/News/121701/NIE/An_American__tossed_s.shtml
BBC News. “’Melting pot’ America” 12 May 2006. Retrieved 20 July 2011. [Online]; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4931534.stm
Branigin, William. “Immigrants Shunning Idea of Assimilation” Washington Post. 25 May 1998. Retrieved 26 July 2011. [Online]; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- srv/national/longterm/meltingpot/melt0525a.htm
Cherry, Kendra. “What is Assimilation?” About.com. Retrieved 26 July 2011. [Online]; http://psychology.about.com/od/aindex/g/assimilation.htm
Dahler, Al. “At its best, diversity strengthens; never divides” News Leader. 26 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011. [Online]; http://www.newsleader.com/article/20110726/OPINION02/107260309
Evans, Jim. “America as Melting Pot? We’re Really More of a Tossed Salad” EthicsDaily. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2011. [Online Journal]; http://www.ethicsdaily.com/america-as- melting-pot-were-really-more-of-a-tossed-salad-cms-14446
Gloor, Leana B. “FROM THE MELTING POT TO THE TOSSED SALAD METAPHOR: WHY COERC” Hohonu. 2006, Volume 4, Number 1. Retrieved 20 July 2011. [Online Journal]; http://hilo.hawaii.edu/academics/hohonu/writing.php?id=91
Lubuguin, Fernand, Ph.D. “Beyond Melting Pot and Tossed Salad” The Society for Descriptive Psychology. 24-27 September 1998. Retrieved 20 July 2011. [Online]; http://www.sdp.org/sdp/papers/lubuguin.html
Salins, Peter D. “Assimilation, America Style” Reason. February 1997. Retrieved 26 July 2011. [Online]; http://reason.com/archives/1997/02/01/assimilation-american-style
Sengupta, Saptakee. “Multiculturalism in America” Buzzle. 5 June 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2011. [Online]; http://www.buzzle.com/articles/multiculturalism-in-america.html
Williams, Juan. “The Changing Face of America” Talk of the Nation. 25 January 2001. Retrieved 30 July 2011. [Online]; http://www.npr.org/programs/totn/features/2001/jan/010125.cfoa.html
World and I School. “Diversity in America”. Retrieved 26 July 2011. [Online]; http://www.worldandischool.com/specialcollection/special-collection-diversity.asp