The Modern Melting Pot
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Numerous immigrants of different nationalities are a great power that transforms the American culture and society. Long before the 21st century, the metaphor “melting pot” was used to describe the assimilation of the immigrants and their cultures in one multicultural society. In 1908, Israel Zangwill offered his theory on the nationalities’ assimilation and ideal new American, who will become “the fusion of all races” and even a “superman” (Parillo, 2008). However, the appearance of such new American population did not happen, it turned the whole process into sharing some of the cultural, social, religious, or political values staying distinct from each other and not abandoning their distinct traits and cultural attributes.
The ideal society of the melting pot has been widely praised and criticized throughout times. Racism, strict American immigration policies, and various restrictions have reduced the possible diversity of the ideal society. The cultural distinctiveness and different behavior of the “ingredients” showed that the transition to a new culture could not be done so easily (Gloor, 2006). The ethnic studies researcher Peter Kivisto analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of the assimilation theories and put emphasis on the ethnicities diversities proliferation. As a result, the conclusion made in his work was focused on the importance of solidarity of each culture that becomes a component of the cultural pluralism. As a result, multiethnic society can be created only on the basis of interdependent cohesion that should maintain the cultural history and homogeneity. Multiethnic liberal democracies of all the pluralistic cultural society members are the crucial components that let the peculiar features of the nationalities transform, coexist, and complement one another (Kivisto, 2004).
The studies of the ethnic assimilation have become quite timely in the contemporary world. Over the last century, the flow and further acculturation of different ethnicities was descibes as American mosaics, salad bowl, tossed salad, etc. (Parillo, 2008). However, each of the metaphors has some shortages. In her article, Laubeova (2000) makes up the following conclusion. The melting pot follows the aim of the equal reflection of all cultures in one, but this great common culture is generally the one of the dominant group. In case with the salad bowl, the cultures should co-exist, but be separated from one another and maintain their own practices and institutions. Therefore, the mixing of races and cultures is a quite complicated process that cannot be easily defined. Even the peculiar traits of the ethnicities representatives can make the fusion more complex or simple.
Multiculturalism has become the central idea of the American society that can be followed in the statistical data, educational curricula and racial proportionality almost everywhere (Auster, 2004). A study conducted in June of 2005 can be regarded as the evidence of the fact that the white Americans consider themselves and their culture as more important than the others. Instead of accepting the cultural fusion, 67% of respondents stated that the immigrants have to adopt the American culture, language, and heritage. Only 17% accepted that those immigrants could support the culture of the native country. However, learning the English language as a necessary step before becoming a citizen was supported by 79% of the interviewed (Rasmussen Reports, 2005). However, the becoming an American citizen should be considered from a long-term perspective. Therefore, in his article, Hirschman (2005) emphasizes socioeconomic roles not only of the adult immigrants, but also of their children. Over time, immigrants and their descendants become “more American” (Hirchmann, 2005). Moreover, their children can be born in the United States and perceive it as their home country after all. Nevertheless, there is a bunch of examples that not only the culture of the immigrants but also the American culture are transformed under various influences.
Intermarriages between the cultures constitute an interesting phenomenon. In many cases, it is considered as a final assimilation step between the cultures. Nowadays, half of all Hispanics, Asian, American, and Indians marry the whites (Gans, 2007). However, in order to confirm the last stage of assimilation, it is important to define the acceptance or rejection of their marriage by the families of the immigrants and non-immigrants. In his article, Gans (2007) pays attention to such essential characteristics as assimilation, acculturation, and mobility that are necessary for living in the foreign country and accepting its cultural heritage. The adjustments should be made on different levels. However, the acceptance of a different culture does not mean rejection of the native one. For instance, the Americans’ preferences in cuisine comprise the collective appreciation of different cultures (Gloor, 2006). At the same time, the symbols of the minor culture may assimilate with those of the dominant one with time. However, the shares of the different ethnicities’ contributions differ according to the number of the population, time of influence, and geographic distribution. Mitchell (2004) marked that the above-mentioned factors can either unify of split multiple cultures. At the same time, the political and social policies of the countries are crucial for the changes that happen in the society and its cultural layers.
American identity has been a disputable notion for centuries since the appearance of the first Europeans on its land. The flow of immigrants has been it its distinctive feature, as well. Nowadays, the growth of the population through immigration and the variety of traditions and cultural views let one define the American identity as a peculiar ideology and a complex of core values, not the features depending on ancestry and history. In spite of this, it is still difficult to give a definite answer to what exactly American is. Each of the countries makes the contribution to the religious, social, cultural, political, and other spheres of life in such a way that they assimilate in one culture and slowly make shifts in it features.
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