93 pages 3 hours read

America Ferrera

American Like Me

Nonfiction | Essay Collection | Adult | Published in 2018

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The United States as a Salad Bowl, Not a Melting Pot

In her comical essay about growing up in a welcoming community, Liza Koshy addresses the differences between viewing the United States as a salad bowl versus a melting pot:

People talk about the diversity of American culture as being this big magical “melting pot.” Which is a term that grosses me out. […] I don’t think my friends and I melted together into one cheesy goo. We weren’t a melting pot who forgot our differences. We recognized them loud and clear (114).

For Koshy, a melting pot suggests a homogenous blob where individual ingredients lose meaning and purpose. For other immigrants, however, this is exactly what they strive to achieve. Some immigrants—especially back when people frequently used the term “melting pot”—had no choice but to assimilate to American values and ways of life as best as possible. This often meant abandoning mother tongues and speaking only US English, abandoning native clothing and food, and being loud and proud about America. In this sense, early immigrants (and some contemporary immigrants) accepted the idea of a melting pot, where individual identity fell away so a national American identity might exist.

In contemporary America, and especially with the latest incidents of cultural upheaval tinged in racist overtones, immigrants and others with diverse racial backgrounds are upholding the rich heritage and ethnicities from which they stem.