Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Melting Pot

Somewhere along the line a once meaningful metaphor for America has gone the way of all melting pots, it seems, replaced by what? Smorgasbord? We don’t call it that, as yet, but what else does multiculturalism mean when translated into the language of food? The melting pot, of course, was never a very perfect image. It didn’t melt black slaves into whites, not even after slavery ended. Resistant ingredients produced our China Towns—as well as helping build our railroads. The Irish seemed also, at first, resistant to cooking. There were those signs. Don’t try to jump into the melting pot, feller. Not wanted here. But it helped to speak English and to be white. The first signs that we were transiting—thus that the melting pot had holes—was the use of hyphenated-American expressions. Race was there all along, euphemized into “ethnicity.”

What led to the above, however, wasn’t thinking about the melting pot but what was under it: the fire. While wealth was expanding, the pot still melted, even as it leaked and, at its bottom, kept accumulating residues that just would not, absolutely Would. Not. melt. What seemed in the past, indeed quite effectively still when I came to this land (1951), to cause the integration of immigrants was a combination of cultural and physical similarity and ample wealth. Those were the causes rather than the lofty ideas enshrined in the Declaration or the Constitution. Now the fire is sputtering—and hence the pot is cooling. The contents are drying up. And cracks are forming on the surface. I look at politics over the last two decades or so—and at ethnic demographics—and wonder... Is the white population beginning to feel hemmed in by growing ethnic minorities on all sides? Is that what all the passion is about? President Obama only won 43 percent of the white vote in 2008, for instance (link). Isn’t there enough fire for everybody? Should we therefore make the pot smaller—so that all the fat can rise to the top?
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The sign shown may be purchased from the Irish Brigade Store for $19.95 (link).

1 comment:

  1. As I watch my children grow up in a multicultural neighborhood, I have often thought that the kids don't really mix even if they go to school together : all of my children have always been good friends with the white children of artist/teacher parents (I would have been a teacher had I been born and raised in France). Henry and Malcolm have one Chinese friend and Max as a young adult has many friends of north african oringine but there are no blacks and very few true arab children coming to our home... The neighborhood is mixed but the populations live side by side. In the States, the pops mix more because to live side by side you must basically be of the same economic level therefore of the same social class. It's the classes that mix not the races.

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