The New Melting Pot
The term ‘melting pot’ refers to the idea that societies formed by people of different cultures and religions will produce new social and cultural forms, where these cultures lose their individual characteristics to some degree. So the ‘ingredients’ in the pot fuse and create a completely new product. Nowadays this term is commonly used – sometimes not correctly. Scientifics and demographers agree that ‘melting pot’ does not accurately describe Americans’ national identity. Bill Frey, American demographer divides the country into three regions, and he labels only one region ‘Melting Pot’.
The history of the melting pot theory originates from the time of the first immigration wave. The United States was imagined not only as the land of opportunity but as a society where individuals of all (European) nations are melted into a new race of men. Later, in 1908, I.srael Zangwill used the term as a title for his production – a vision of America as an Eden where all ethnicities and cultures melted happily into a harmonious whole. From that time, the term became widespread.
But today, it seems that the United States is not a melting pot, but rather a ‘salad bowl’ or a ‘mosaic’. Different ethnicities and groups keep their discrete identities, while maintaining relations among each other.
The country has regional characteristics. These regions are being shaped by different immigration and domestic migration flows. ‘While it is true that America is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, this diversity is hardly spread evenly across the country’ – alleges Frey.
According to his new division (the three regions), the Melting Pot consists of Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico and Texas. These states are home to 74% of the nation’s combined Hispanic and Asian populations but only 41% of its total population. Most immigrants cluster into several, mostly coastal metropolitan areas: New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Miami, etc. The overwhelming majority of immigrants come from Asia and Latin America – Mexico, the Central American countries, the Philippines, Korea, and Southeast Asia.
There is a relatively new immigration policy that emphasizes family reunification and encourages migration to occur in chains, connecting co – nationals at both origin and destination. That new policy, a response to charges that the law favored white Europeans, allowed immigrants already living in the United States to bring over their relatives, who in turn could bring over more relatives. As a result, America has been absorbing as many as 1 million newcomers a year, to the point that now almost 1 in every 10 residents is foreign born.
This ‘new’ melting pot is not mainly a melting pot of Whites, what’s more, it’s losing Whites. ‘These losses are occurring in both the central cities, and suburban communities and reflect a flight from urbanism more than a flight from diversity’ – said Frey.
Census 2000 shows that ‘migration paths’ are changing and different relations have evolved among ethnics. The original theory of melting pot is outdated and does not exactly describe Americans’ national identity. Today, there is more emphasis on preserving one’s ethnic identity and cultural roots than melt into a unity.