Question 1 Is the United Sates a melting pot? Are we becoming a blended nation with common traditions? If we are a melting pot, why such a need to talk abo

Question 1 Is the United Sates a melting pot? Are we becoming a blended nation with common traditions? If we are a melting pot, why such a need to talk abo

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Question 1 Is the United Sates a melting pot? Are we becoming a blended nation with common traditions? If we are a melting pot, why such a need to talk about diversity?

read article and answer question in 1 good paragraph Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies Copyright 2019

2019, Vol. 6, No. 1, 142-151 ISSN: 2149-1291


A Critical Literary Review of the Melting Pot and Salad Bowl

Assimilation and Integration Theories

Mohamed Berray1
Florida State University, FL, USA

Immigrant communities have varying degrees of acculturation based on their

predispositions for specific cultural norms and their propensity to exhibit similarities in

principles, values, and a common lifestyle with dominant racial and ethnic groups. Food

metaphors like the Melting Pot and the Salad Bowl theories have illustrated different

approaches to integration by explaining the political and power dynamics between

dominant and minority groups. Yet, little consideration is given in either theory to

existing local contexts that influence the actions of these groups. By combining ethnic

identities into homogenous outcomes, food metaphors empower dominant ethnic groups

and set the tone for discriminatory legislative policies that eliminate programs aimed at

helping minorities. For refugees, this obscures their actual socio-political circumstances

and erases their historical experiences. This paper aims to review and critique existing

literature about metaphorical homogenous assimilation and integration theories, with

experiences from around the world. This paper postulates that using a homogenous

common good as the baseline metaphor for assimilation and integration disregards the

individual accommodations that need to be made for both dominant and minority

communities. These accommodations, although sometimes separate from the collective

good, have a significant role in creating conducive environments for diversity and


Keywords: integration, ethnicity, identity, melting pot, Salad Bowl, assimilation.


People are not food. Vague food metaphors transmit racist views and perpetuate disparities in

interpretation (Gloor, 2006; López-Rodríguez, 2014). Although these metaphors have helped explain current

political and power dynamics between dominant and minority groups, it is unclear what their applications are

through specific legislative and social actions at the national level. The main disadvantage of food metaphors

proposed in this paper is that combining ethnic identities into homogenous outcomes empowers dominant groups

to believe that minorities are closer to them than they are to their countries/cultures of origin. This lack of cultural

sensitivity victimizes minority groups through inappropriate mainstream cultural commentary and assertions

with the expectations of common understanding and lack of recourse on the part of minority groups. Even when

true integration happens, each individual retains a significant portion of their cultural origin that is not easily

lost. Coercive policies to homogenize identities in the Melting Pot theory makes it both difficult, and in some

instances impossible, to achieve the intended assimilation of minority ethnic groups in host societies. The fear

of losing one’s native culture as a price for integration is sometimes is a price too heavy to pay. Instead of food

metaphors, we need inclusive theories that coalesce discordant viewpoints of diverse societies into admissible

heterogeneity practices of the represented groups.

The Melting Pot Theory

The Melting Pot theory first rose to prominence when in 1782, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, an

immigrant from France, described the demographic homogeneity of the United States as comprising “individuals

of all nations….melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in

the world” (St. John de Crevecoeur, 1782, para. 5). In his view, Americans are “western pilgrims” who carry

with them industrial skills from the East, and will finish the great circle of their pilgrimage in the United States.

According to Laubeova (2005), St. John de Crevecoeur envisioned a prosperous American labor force comprised

of new races with greater influence on U.S. standing on the world stage.

Almost a century later in 1845, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a poet who led the American transcendentalist

movement of the mid-19th century, expanded on St. John de Crevecoeur’s theory by describing America as “the

Utopian product of a culturally and racially mixed smelting pot” (Emerson et al., 1971, p. 116). In 1875, an

article by Titus Munson Coan, in his attempt to describe the smelting process of becoming an American,

1 Correspondence: Social Sciences Librarian for Political Sciences, Public Policy, International Affairs. Coordinator for Government

Information, Florida State University Libraries, 0027L Strozier Library | 116 Honors Way | Tallahassee, FL 32306 | E-mail:

Berray, M.


introduced the Melting Pot theory as the fusing of individualities, including any traits of immigrant religion and

race, down a blast furnace in a “democratic alembic like chips of brass in a melting pot” (Coan, 1875, p. 463).

The Melting Pot theory was further popularized in 1908 by Israel Zangwill’s Broadway production,

“The Melting Pot”, about two lovers from Russian Jewish and Russian Cossack families. A character in the

play, David, says “America is God’s crucible, the great melting-pot where all the races of Europe are melting

and reforming” (Zangwill, 1921, p. 33). Zangwill was referring specifically to the idea that America is a country

where it is pointless and almost impossible for immigrants – the Germans and French, the Irish and English, and

Jews and Russians – to continue their feuds and hatred. For the new immigrants, it was pointless, unfavorable,

and to some extent impossible, for them to nourish their animosity and prejudices towards one another. This

impetus to assimilate was described by Wagener (2009) as an adaptation of minority groups to the cultural norms

and “structural characteristics” of the culturally, politically, and economically dominant group (p.3). This

adaptation to dominant norms reduces linguistic and cultural differences between ethnic minorities and host

communities with the expectations of integration into mainstream society. The newly formed integrated society

consists of pre-existing identities in association with newly introduced forms (Calderon Berumen, 2019). It

involves blending lifestyles between immigrants and hosts, converging within and among themselves to a

common lifestyle that continues to evolve over time (Meier, 2019; Park & Burgess, 1924; Woofter, 2019).

Though heavily criticized, especially by alternate integration and assimilation theories like the Salad

Bowl, the Melting Pot theory has its advantages. First, it consolidates the concept of citizenship by creating an

environment that integrates different ethnicities to celebrate national pride under a single banner. As said by

Miller (2005), “citizenship provides a reference point. Our personal lives and commitments may be very

different, but we are all equally citizens, and it is as citizens that we advance claims in the public realm and

assess the claims made by others” (p. 41). By expanding citizenship, the Melting Pot theory, by extension, also

expands national identity to be inclusive of different ethnicities and the values they bring with them. Secondly,

it removes the singular homogenous identity attached to nation states, i.e., one federal government, a single

national flag, defined territory, singular passport, all of which can be extended to mean a single national identity.

The Melting Pot theory redefines this concept and solidifies the idea that national identity can be made up of

multiple identities fused together under a single national emblem. In other words, it promotes a sense of

community and social solidarity.

Citizenship provides a formidable compromise to integration because it is conferred not by a measure

of deviation or replacement of one’s cultural values from their countries of origin, but by a measure of adaptation

to the laws and values in host societies (Lafer & Tarman, 2019). In the United States for example, the U.S.

Congress passed a joint resolution in 1940 requesting that the President of the United States issue an annual

proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday in May each year as “I Am An American Day” (54 Stat. 178) in

recognition of all who had attained American citizenship. Although this resolution was repealed in 1952, a new

law was passed designating September 17 as “Citizenship Day” to recognize those who have attained American

citizenship, and to commemorate “the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the

United States” (66 Stat. 9). A 2004 amendment to the Omnibus Spending Bill later declared September 17 as

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (36 U.S. Code § 106).

When immigrants naturalize in the United States, they swear to support the Constitution and renounce

and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty

of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen (8 U.S. Code § 1448). Upon attainment of U.S.

Citizenship, immigrants still retain their cultural and personal values of their countries of origin. Attainment of

U.S. Citizenship, therefore, welcomes immigrants to the United States, whilst granting them the opportunity to

retain their individuality, including practicing their faith and cultural beliefs of their countries of origin. The

Melting Pot theory will therefore continue to hold value as an allegory for national unity so long as substituent

ethnicities are recognized and ethnic multiplicity is considered an essential component within U.S. citizenship.

The Salad Bowl Theory

Starting in the 1960s, a new vision of American pluralism arose metaphorically similar to the salad

bowl (Thornton, 2012). Compared to the melting pot, the Salad Bowl theory maintains the unique identities of

individuals that would otherwise be lost to assimilation. The immediate advantage of the Salad Bowl theory is

that it acknowledges the discrete identities and cultural differences of a multicultural society. This appreciation

for the individual contributions of each ethnic group to society transcends the overarching ascendance of the

dominant culture at the expense of imperceptible minority groups. Contrary to the Melting Pot theory where the

identity and influence of the dominant ethnic group prevails regardless of the transformation resulting from the

assimilation and cultural morphology, the Salad Bowl retains the individuality and independence of ethnic

groups, and permits their existence side-by-side dominant cultures. This removes the pressure to create

Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies Copyright 2019

2019, Vol. 6, No. 1, 142-151 ISSN: 2149-1291


homogenous identities in the Melting Pot theory, especially since such homogenous identities are not

representative in equal proportion of their constituent identities.

The Salad Bowl theory, given its shortcomings, provides more integrative possibilities than the melting

pot. Metaphorically speaking, we can be selective with the ingredients we add to our salad, leaving some out,

and increasing the amounts of others based on our needs. Thus, not only does the salad bowl metaphor allow for

the individuality of ethnic identities it represents, but it also paves the way for selective integration between

ethnic groups based on their need to integrate in host societies. This advantage of the Salad Bowl theory holds

important application to immigrant communities giving their different propensity to integrate based on their

predispositions for specific cultural norms and lifestyles in their host societies. According to Wagener (2009),

people with a common lifestyle will “belong to the same social milieu if their ways of life, principles, norms

and values exhibit similarity” (p. 5). Therefore, any attempts by assimilation policies at narrowing differences

and dissimilarities in lifestyles between immigrants ad dominant societies are in fact contingent on measures

that are relative to exogenous and endogenous reference standards in the host country (Wagner, 2009). This

approach can be intrinsically misplaced. Take race and language as examples: culturally dominant societies of

the same race who speak the same language can be fundamentally different in their values and norms (Tarman

& Gürel, 2017). Immigrants of different races who do not speak the dominant language but with similar

predispositions in their countries of origins can share values predominant in their host societies. Foner (2000)

explained this using the example of Jamaican women in New York with higher employment rates than

Dominicans. This is because Jamaicans have English language expertise and slightly higher educational levels.

But also, Jamaican society has a strong tradition of female employment, unlike Dominicans where women have

traditionally withdrawn from the workforce to symbolize their household’s respectability and elevated economic

status (Foner, 2000). Similar observations have been attributed to the successes of Asian students, where cultural

factors play a significant role in shaping parents’ expectations, including enrolment in after-school institutions

that “prepare Korean and Chinese children for exams in the city’s specialized high schools” (Foner, 2000,

p.258). Acceptance of these diverse values as integral to host societies can help bridge the gap, rather than

exclusive policies that aim of preserving dominant cultures at the expense of integration. According to Borjas

(1994), immigrants with high levels of productivity that rapidly adapt to host country conditions play a role in

significantly improving the economy, lending him to appeal to natives that they “need not be concerned about

the possibility of these immigrants [increasing] expenditures on social assistance programs” (p. 1667).

Critiques of Metaphorical Assimilation and Integration Theories: The Melting Pot and the Salad Bowl

There are many critiques of the Melting Pot theory. It’s an “Anglo-conformist classic assimilation

theory” (Brown & Bean, 2006, online) that expects minority cultures to morph into a society with norms, values,

and behaviors that reflect the dominant culture. In other words, people of different cultures combine so as to

“lose their discrete identities and yield a final product of uniform consistency and flavor, different from the

original inputs” (Gloor, 2006, p. 29). This unnecessary burden of expectation imposes on both the dominant and

the minority culture the need to converge, becoming more similar over time (Kivisto, 2004). Not only is such

an expectation unrealistic, it sets the tone for discriminatory legislative policies by eliminating programs aimed

at helping minorities. According to Gloor (2006), such coercive assimilation policies induce fear into minorities

seeking to preserve their heritage, and threaten to fracture the common ground social framework that holds the

inclusive unity of groups that melting pot theorists claim to be protecting. Uniform ethno-morphological

practices also do not allow for vital customizations to accommodate successful lifestyles of diverse citizens.

This practice is widely observed in current media commentaries in light of racial tensions in America. The

assertion that [we are all American] and claims that statements like [a black man being shot by police officer] is

racially inflammatory, disempower the African American community to advocate against racial bias and

discriminatory social policies that disenfranchises them. This logic minimizes the fact that we all belong to

different races, with diverse and unequal historical experiences that cannot, and should not, be easily subsumed

into a single American melting pot. At the end of the day, accumulated human dispositions that lead to defined

cultural identities cannot be represented by ingredients used in a melting pot of cultures. The growth and

development of social lifestyles and interactions, education, language, different means of survival, and

upbringings are each separate components of our cultural identities that interact differently with different

(dominant in this case) societies, and cannot be lost or assimilated in unison to (with) those of host societies.

A key shortcoming of the Melting Pot theory is that it ignores existing local contexts that influence the

choices and actions of both dominant and minority groups, and the impacts of these on acculturation. It’s

important to note that when immigrants travel to the host countries, they do so with intent, and mostly, with the

mindset of becoming integral to their new societies. When integration doesn’t come easily, it is not always from

refusal by immigrants to adapt to their new societies, nor is it always from fear, with the pretext that assimilation

Berray, M.


takes away from their preexisting cultural norms and values. Instead, as will be explained in upcoming sections,

different immigrant communities have different propensities to integrate based on their predispositions for

specific cultural norms and lifestyles from their host societies. It is also important in this context to distinguish

assimilation from integration. According to Swaidan (2018), assimilation occurs when “individuals of the

acculturating group choose to adopt the dominant culture” (p. 40). This view is supported by (Phinney,

Horenezyk, Liebkind, & Vedder, 2001) who described assimilation as taking place when a group views its own

culture negatively and adopts the culture of the receiving society. Integration on the other hand, occurs when

“there is an interest in both maintaining the original culture and simultaneously seeking to participate as an

integral part of the dominant culture” (Swaidan, 2018, p.40). Integration therefore refers to the processes, and

the systems and structures in place to allow minorities (immigrant groups) to attain opportunities afforded long-

term citizens (Alba & Foner, 2014), and other societal goals such as improved socioeconomic positions and

inclusion in a broad range of societal institutions (Berry, 1997).

What immigrants ask for within their host societies, is the ability to integrate whilst retaining their

cultural identities at birth. According to Gloor (2006), these could “serve as a compromise between full

assimilation and multiculturalism” (p. 31), a dialogue that redefines the objective for multiethnic societies and

allows for diversity and inclusion. This desire for immigrants to retain their cultures has been extensively

researched and proven to be true. Bakker, van der Zee, and van Oudenhoven (2006) found that immigrant ethnic

minorities prefer to retain aspects of their culture such as language, religion, and traditions as they integrate into

host cultures. In many instances, this also includes forming social ties with other communities in exile with

which they share similar characteristics. Even when similarities exist between immigrant communities and

dominant host societies, the fear of losing one’s native culture as a price for integration is sometimes seen as a

price too heavy to pay. In many cases, dominant culture stereotypes that affiliate immigrants with existing

minorities in the host society have forced immigrants to distinguish themselves by clinging to their cultures and

emphasizing their linguistic and traditional characteristics that set them apart. This distinguishing behavior has

been observed in Spanish-speaking immigrants who do not want to be confused with Puerto Ricans, and in dark-

skinned Indian immigrants who might be confused with African Americans (Foner, 2000). Bertsch (2013) also

studied European immigrants who bear resemblance with their American counterparts and concluded that

although they identify as Americans based on their residence in the United States, they do not readily assimilate

because in doing so, they might lose valued cultural characteristics from their countries of origin. This

differentiation of ethnic groups, and the creation of a bounded conceptual space to self-identify, also lies at the

heart of the definition of ethnic identities. According to Ahmed (2016), ethnic identities are defined as the

“aspect of a person’s self-conceptualization which results from identification with a broader group in opposition

to others on the basis of perceived cultural differentiation and/or common descent” (p. 2). Ethnic thickness, as

it is called, refers to a strong sense of commitment to one’s ethnic group. A looser sense of commitment has

been termed ethnic thinness (Cornell & Hartmann, 2007). Ahmed’s definition is derived from Jones (1997) who

defined an ethnic group as “any group of people who set themselves apart and/or are set apart by others with

whom they interact or co-exist on the basis of their perceptions of cultural differentiation and/or common

descent” (p. xiii).

This tendency of cultural fusion in the Melting Pot theory shares a striking similarity with the Salad

Bowl theory that has also not been discussed in the literature. Similar to the literal meaning of a melting pot, a

salad bowl is a combined dish, rather than the attention to the individual vegetables. In both theories, the final

product is different from the individual ingredients. They both promote the idea of a culmination, and the coming

to life of a finished meal, rather than highlighting the ingredients. Both theories focus on the end products of

assimilation, and not the processes that lead to it. The end products – “melting pot” and “salad bowl” – are also

defined in strict configurations, leaving little chance to deviate from the “recipe”. It is clear in the Melting Pot

theory that ingredients representing individual identities in the recipe are lost to the dominant identity base. A

can of tomato soup will still preserve its dominant identity regardless of the composite additions to it. To also

expect that integration and assimilation happens in a manner that resembles cooking a meal, is itself biased

based on our cultural understandings of those meals.

This raises an important point. Like the melting pot, the salad bowl is a derivative process. In real life,

this refers to the coexistence of different ethnicities side-by-side in peace and harmony with shared cultural and

identity practices that serve their common good. The problem with using the “common good” as a conclusive

baseline metaphor of assimilation is that they disregard the individual accommodations that need to be made for

both dominant and minority communities. These accommodations, as much as they seem separate from the

collective good, have a significant role in creating conducive environments for diversity and inclusion. Yet, in

many instances, the inter-bonding between minority groups and the dominant counterpart is preferred and

Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies Copyright 2019

2019, Vol. 6, No. 1, 142-151 ISSN: 2149-1291


antecedent to the intra-bond that exist within a minority group, and between one minority group and another.

The next section of this paper addresses this.

Selectivity in Integration: The Case of Ethnicity in Exile

The field of migration and refugee studies has studied the bond between different groups in exile in

more detail. This socio-anthropological theory called ethnicity in exile postulates that the existing local contexts

of host countries influence the choices and actions of immigrant groups from different origins. The definition of

ethnicity used in this context is derived from Berry (1997) who defined ethnicity as the manifestation of “social

and psychological phenomena associated with a culturally constructed group identity” (p. xiii). This is important

because, as put by Ahmed (2016), the formation of ethnicity requires an interaction of social and cultural


The Case of Refugees: Many researchers have studied the interaction of social and cultural processes

and the effects of altering their natural occurrences. Moro (2004) studied interethnic relationships between

Sudanese and Ugandan refugees in Egypt. His research proved that the diversity of people with different

histories living in the same location influenced the relations of ethnic groups, sometimes for the better (Moro,

2004). Malkki (1995) studied how refugees from different ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia have reshaped

their identities based on existing local contexts in different host countries. The findings of her research are that

structural factors in the host countries of the refugees influence their experiences and shape their ethnic

identities. Malkki’s research demonstrates that domestic policies and practices in host countries with dominant

ethnic groups create conditions that resulted in ethnic boundaries having little meaning in influencing the

formation of identities and the social enterprise of refugees from the post Yugoslav states. This view is supported

by Ahmed (2016) who described the boundaries between ethnic groups to be as much psychological as cultural

and social, and has to be understood in intergroup perspectives. Specifically in the case of refugees, their

common needs usually places them in contrast with resident dominant groups and characterizes them with

distinct identities. In many cases, these immigrants find themselves living with other minorities, including

native-born minorities. As a result, they join together to pursue common goals, sometimes in the face of common

discrimination and prejudice (Foner, 2000). What this means is that conditions of exile may in fact augment and

strengthen the formation of social networks between different ethnic groups to help enhance their integration in

new societies. According to Korac (2004), these constructions of ethnic and identity processes leveraged by the

conditions of settlement in host countries are pivotal to addressing the sociopolitical consequences of the

displacement of people fleeing ethnic strife. This in return influences successful post-conflict rehabilitation and

reconstruction of war-torn societies, contingent on facilitated settlement experiences and reshaped identity

processes of repatriates.

Seclusion of Dominant Groups: The advantage of extending the theoretical underpinnings of ethnicity

in exile as a vantage point in filling the shortcomings of both the Salad Bowl and the Melting Pot theories is that

they also both apply to the acceptance of dominant ethnic groups by minorities. Many times, dominant ethnic

groups, including whites in the United States, have been stereotyped for their racial seclusiveness. These social

racial groupings, such as the “redneck”, have been criticized as conservative and racially segregationist.

However, their social lifestyles alone do not amount to racism, except if done with discriminatory intent. Such

stereotypical characterizations of rednecks further exposes the misplacement of ethnic differentiation that has

been impressed on ethnic minorities. The reality is redneck is a pejorative term for lower class working white

people dating back to the indentured servitude of farm workers throughout the South and the Caribbean colonies.

During those times, the whiter the skin, the richer and more refined the individual. Having a literal redneck

meant a field worker and thus a lower class.

According to Huber (1995), one of the earliest use of the name “redneck” was in 1893 when Hubert A.

Shands reported that the word was used by upper class [whites] in Mississippi to distinguish themselves from

poorer residents of rural districts. The word later entered the political discourse of the State in the 1980s when

“Democrats used it to denigrate farmers within their party who supported populist reforms” (Ferguson, 1953, p.

519). Since then the pejorative term has been used to denigrate the rural poor “white of the American South and

particularly one who holds conservative, racist, or reactionary views” (Huber, 1995). By the mid-sixties, the

connection between redneck and …

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