By: Osama Sayed
The United States is commonly referred to as a melting pot, however if one were to really analyze it, it would be much more similar to a salad bowl. What began out as an idea that people from all over the world would come together in this land with liberty and justice for all and live the American Dream has evolved into a community of smaller communities. To claim that the United States is a “melting pot” is to claim that everybody assimilates into one culture. The United States has allowed communities to flourish, but many communities remained confined. Much like a salad bowl serves as a collection of different assortments, the United States serves as a collection of different communities.
In many ways this is an excellent attribute for the United States. American culture allows individuals to be “American” and still maintain their heritage and culture of their families. Not many countries around the world allow for this kind of integration. However, the problem with this arises when communities bring foreign conflicts into the United States. Although America still has its internal quarrels and conflicts (like the issues that led to the Baltimore riots for example), conflicts in the US are generally much more mellow than others around the world.
One example of this is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While this conflict has its roots in the Middle East, it has found a way to transcend into US borders. The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis originated in 1948 when the United Nations voted to recognize both a Palestinian State and The State of Israel in what was then known as the British Mandate in Palestine. For the past 67 years there has been conflict between Muslims and Jews (as well as Palestinian Christians) because of this issue. Both make claims over the land and both factions accuse the other of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.
As American Muslim and Jewish student communities grew, so too did their voices on campus. As a result, issues happening in the Middle East could be heard clearly at Rutgers by both groups. Whenever conflict arose between Israelis and Palestinians, the echoes resonated among Muslim and Jewish students at Rutgers University. There can be no denying that there has been growing animosity between those two groups of students that is largely representative of the conflict as a whole. Animosity seems to be a theme that has been driving the polarization of the different communities that together make up the American salad bowl. With polarization brewing between American Blacks and Whites, and some people considering the phrase “Black Lives Matter” to be offensive is implicative of the direction that this polarization is heading towards. Many seemingly “regular” topics are starting to become controversial and many controversial topics that were thought to have been solved are starting to resurface. This polarization even exists beyond simple racial, religious, and political differences. Even the lifestyles and orientations of individuals have been subject to controversy including couples being denied marriage certificates and wedding cakes simply because of their sexual orientation.
If the United States had actually been a melting pot, then most of these conflicts may not had been so deeply polarized. However, one of the glorious defining characteristics of the US is that it is comparable to a salad bowl in that it is a physical representation of the world and serves as an integration of communities from all over the world of all different races, creeds, ethnicities, languages, and cultures. This is one of America’s many positive attributes. But it is also one of the American people’s greatest responsibilities. If left to continue this proliferating polarization, this salad bowl could contrast itself and leave a negative influence. However, the nature of integration of America’s communities could also have a very positive effect if directed in the right direction.
How could the differences in American communities be used as an advantage rather than a source of conflict? The most influential answer to this would be the concept of coexistence. Differences will always be present and there will never be a uniform human complexion. But the world is entering a new age now where the internet can connect people from all corners of the world and transportation is easier than ever. Controversial issues are being discussed more frequently than in recent times. The American salad bowl metaphor can be used as a way to expand education and knowledge of other communities. What may be more difficult to achieve in other parts of the world where conflict is tense could be applied here starting with college campuses. While it may be difficult to get Muslim and Jewish residents of the Middle East to sit down together and talk, groups like Rutgers Shalom/Salaam has achieved this. It is the duty and responsibility of college students, as future citizens of America and the world to use every opportunity to learn about different groups of people. The most popular salads are those that have a variety of different assortments that get along with each other in a complementary framework. While disagreements will always exist, and may even increase with time, respect is crucial. If these communities are to thrive, different groups of people must learn to live in peace.