By: Maria Martirosyan
When I first meet someone, I always have the urge to ask them where they are from? More often than not, most people reply saying, “I’m American”. It boggles my mind to try to comprehend what it means to be American. My understanding has always been that America, at its very core, is a nation of immigrants, a collection of many cultures from many nations. Therefore, I asked myself, can someone truly be just an American or is it more complex than that?
For generations, America has thrived from its so-called melting pot heritage. It is the idea that people of different nationalities come together to become one in the American melting pot, merging a diverse society to become more homogeneous, all to create a single identity. This idea has been told, retold, and pressed upon people for years.
With so many ethnically concentrated neighborhoods, most parents and grandparents strive to keep the culture alive in the new generation, while outside of their homes, the youth are told to jump into the great American melting pot. Whereas I wrote in my previous blog, as an immigrant child going to school in America I was told to adapt to this culture and embrace the idea of the American melting pot. This included reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning, speaking English-only in school, learning American children’s’ rhymes, watching kids’ cartoons about the importance of the United States of America in the world, and listening to ‘N Sync. It was quiet evident that I and many of the other immigrant students felt the burden of needing to fit in and be accepted with the current culture. The culture that is so praised, popular, and powerful – the American way of life.
Nevertheless, allow me to clarify. Although I have no problem with reciting the pledge of allegiance or engaging myself in any American activity, my issue arises when it infringes upon the cultures and identities of individuals, especially children. No one should have to shed their identity or stray away from educating themselves about their family roots to be accepted. I find it to be of great importance that people embrace their heritage and their roots as we all share our cultures with one another. By doing so, we will increase not only education and awareness, but hopefully one day this sort of lifestyle will lead to not only tolerance, but acceptance of all the different cultures the American society has to offer. America is so great not because of the assimilation but because we all come from difference background and have something unique to offer in the great American salad bowl. Yes, the salad bowl! I strongly stress that the American society changes their mindset from emphasizing the American melting pot to emphasizing the American salad bowl, because just like all the different ingredients that come together in the salad bowl, various cultures come together to make America. So as individuals we should always remember to stand out, yet still stand together!