America: Melting Pot or not?

Maggie Kelso, Writer

We are Americans. As Americans, we all grew up knowing that America was a nation built by immigrants, by people seeking a better and brighter future. This means that every race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, political affiliation, and social class has made America the way it is today. If I’ve left out any diversity group I apologize, but we Americans are so diverse that sometimes it’s difficult to keep straight all of the differences between us. In fact, the only thing that truly unifies all of us is that we are American.

Imagine my surprise when I heard that people are strongly objecting to the 2014 Super Bowl Coca-Cola commercial that promotes this diversity through the use of beautiful cultural images of America’s people. In the commercial, children sing “America the Beautiful” in the many languages spoken by the people who live in our nation. The advertisement is meant to promote a sense of community and pride for our country’s motto “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one). Yet many Americans believe that if someone does not match our founding fathers’ skin color, they are not actually citizens of this country. Embracing that construction of citizenship is to ignore nearly 240 years of progress, not to mention all amendments made to the constitution.

The problem is that this advertisement has been so misinterpreted. Language is part of a person’s culture, not a characteristic of their race. The languages sung are representative of a multicultural America, not a promotion for an America that does not speak English. Advertisers chose children to sing in a variety of languages because the future of America rests in their hands, and they will be agents of change for a more accepting country. After all, the more accepting of cultural diversity they are now, the more accepting America will become in the future.

The words of “America the Beautiful” are meant to convey that our country was a great innovation. “And crown thy good with brotherhood / from sea to shining sea,” means that all Americans have equal rights, that our opinions are equally valid, and that our diverse cultures are all equally important. It is true that one could argue that the ad makes an argument for diversity of language in America and the adoption of multiple national languages. Some angered by the ad have used it as a springboard to argue how illegal immigration is changing our country; I disagree. As I have stated before, this compilation of breathtaking footage and familiar melody are there simply with the intention of showing Coca-Cola’s consumers how far America has come and to show them that Coca-Cola can be enjoyed by all people who live here. It tells us that Coca-Cola is an American tradition.

For the Olympics, Coca-Cola has modified its commercial in an attempt to pacify angered consumers, but I think that it should not have had to. The ad now runs an extra 10 seconds and begins with a shot of the desert. The words “E Pluribus Unum” fade into the picture for a moment along with their translation. It does not change the message, but it takes away from the simplicity, narrowing the focus of the ad to a smaller field of vision.

The fact that people are actually arguing that this ad does not represent the “melting pot” of America actually makes me sad. While I argue that this outrage is a product of misinterpretation, it does point out that America has not come as far as we like to think it has. We are still more racist and more divided than we appear to be, and that needs to change. Freedom and equality are our traditions, and we are Americans, so we’d best start embracing what that means.

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