According to Wikipedia, “The melting pot is a monocultural metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements ‘melting together’ with a common culture; an alternative being a homogeneous society becoming more heterogeneous through the influx of foreign elements with different cultural backgrounds, possessing the potential to create disharmony within the previous culture. Historically, it is often used to describe the cultural integration of immigrants to the United States. The melting-together metaphor was in use by the 1780s. The exact term ‘melting pot’ came into general usage in the United States after it was used as a metaphor describing a fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities in the 1908 play of the same name.”
Wikipedia further states: “The melting pot theory of ethnic relations, which sees American identity as centered upon the acculturation or assimilation and the intermarriage of white immigrant groups, has been analyzed by the emerging academic field of whiteness studies. This discipline examines the “social construction of whiteness” and highlights the changing ways in which whiteness has been normative to American national identity from the 17th to the 20th century.”
Then came large numbers of European immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that increased the diversity and also substantially increased their numbers. Beginning in the 1890s, large numbers of Southern and Eastern Europeans such as the Italians, Jews, and Poles arrived. They eventually merged into the cultural melting pot, adopting American lifestyles.
But when the Chinese arrived, they met intense hostility. New laws that were legislated in the 1880s tried to exclude them. But the hostile environment forced them into “Chinatowns” or ethnic enclaves like Little Sicily in New York City, which prevented assimilation.
At the turn of the 20th century, when the Philippine Islands became an American colony, Filipinos started arriving in Hawaii – then an American territory — to work in the plantations. In the 1920s they started arriving in California and other western states to fill the shortage of farm workers.
However, the “nativists” wanted to severely restrict access to the melting pot. They felt that far too many “undesirables,” or in their view, culturally inferior immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe had already arrived. A series of immigration laws in the 1920s established the principle that “the number of new arrivals should be small, and, apart from family reunification, the inflow of new immigrants should match the ethnic profile of the nation as it existed at that time.” National quotas were established that discouraged immigration from Poland, Italy and Russia and encouraged immigration from Britain, Ireland and Germany.
Intermarriage between white American men and Native American women became common. In the 21st century some 7.5 million Americans claim Native American ancestry.
However, the mixing of whites and blacks – resulting in multiracial children – for whom the term “miscegenation” was coined in 1863, was taboo. Most whites opposed marriages between whites and blacks, which was even prohibited by state law through the anti-miscegenation laws.
It’s interesting to note that the Filipino men who arrived without women were targeted. California, which had a large number of Filipino workers, was one of the states that had anti-miscegenation laws. As a result, Filipino men who had white girlfriends had to travel to other states where there were no anti-miscegenation laws, to get married. Then they returned to California to raise their families.
Then World War II erupted! After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged to defend the Philippine Commonwealth. “So long as the flag of the United States flies on Filipino soil as a pledge of our duty to your people, it will be defended by our own men to the death,” he said.
President Roosevelt ordered that all military forces in the Philippines be under the control of the U.S. Armed Forces of the Far East (USAFFE). Tens of thousands of Filipinos answered Roosevelt’s “call to arms.”
One of those who served was Jose Calugas, a member of the Philippine Scouts. He fought bravely in the Battle of Bataan. He was captured and was forced to march in the Death March. He survived and was released in 1943. He was then secretly assigned to a guerilla unit in the Philippines where he fought until the liberation of the Philippines. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Bataan.
After the war, unmarried Filipino veterans took their “war brides” to the U.S. and raised their families. Their children and the children of Filipino farm workers came to be known as the “Bridge Generation,” of which many of them found their niche in the community.
Since World War II, the idea of the melting pot has become more racially inclusive in the United States, gradually extending also to acceptance of marriage between whites and non-whites.
But 2020 has become a turning point in U.S. history. Former president Donald Trump who had divided America with his racist views and policies left the office by promoting his “Big Lie” to the American people. Like Adolf Hitler, Trump used them as his propaganda technique, taking a page right out of Hilter’s playbook. And it almost destroyed democracy.
I believe as do many others, that he tried to stage a coup d’état on January 6, 2020, when he incited a bloody insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Tens of thousands predominantly white men stormed the Capitol after listening to Trump who told the angry mob that the election had been stolen from him. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told the seething crowd, urging them to head to the Capitol.
By nightfall, four people were dead, and the angry mob trashed offices throughout the Capitol, with lawmakers forced to barricade themselves in the House debating chamber or sheltering in their offices.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran, tweeted: “I had to evacuate my office because of a pipe bomb reported outside. Supporters of the President are trying to force their way into the Capitol and I can hear what sounds like multiple gunshots.”
Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut tweeted that lawmakers had been asked to get out gas masks “as there has been tear gas used in the rotunda,” the circular building in the center of the Capitol.
When Trump called the coronavirus Covid-19 “China virus” and “Kung Flu,” it created an angry backlash against Asian-Americans. Anti-Asian violence has erupted in various cities across the U.S. Many Asian-Americans across the country were killed or harmed as a result of Trump’s characterization of the coronavirus.
The American melting pot, which has withstood the test of time for more than 100 years, is suddenly under stress as the Asian-American community is being blamed for the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed more than 500,000 lives so far.
When would the violence against Asian-Americans end? What has the Biden administration done to mitigate the violence, which doesn’t seem to end? I recommend that President Joe Biden initiate a nationwide educational campaign to clarify the causes of the Covid-19 virus and to allay fears among Asian-Americans. A presidential involvement to mitigate the violence against Asia-Americans is very much in order. Otherwise, the melting pot is bound to crack.