America is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Most Americans can trace their lineage back to a mother country somewhere else in the world. In fact, it would be difficult to find a country anywhere in the world that has not sent immigrants to America. This is why America’s Founders espoused the melting-pot concept captured succinctly in our national motto: E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). Our Founders understood instinctively that a nation composed of immigrants could go one of two ways: 1) America could become a nation of warring factions forever separated by national heritage, race, and language; or 2) America could become a melting pot that transformed immigrants from all over the world into a new entity called an American.
The melting-pot concept never worked perfectly. No concept that deals with such deeply personal issues as heritage, lineage, language, and cultural values can work perfectly. Further, there is the sad exclusion of people brought to America in chains; people who from the outset were denied the benefits of the melting pot. However, the melting pot did work better in the past than it does now. In fact, in today’s politically correct America it no longer works at all.
By and large the melting-pot concept is based on realization of the need for a common language, subscription to a common set of broad principles, and allegiance to a common nation—the United States of America. With the exception of slavery, the melting-pot concept worked well to assimilate immigrants into the mainstream of American society. Of course, this was before the federal government got involved. Until the federal government clumsily stepped in and ham-fistedly took control, immigrants from all over the world saw assimilation as the first step toward realizing the American dream. Immigrants used to insist that their children learn to speak English and adopt American values. They proudly identified themselves as Americans, not Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, even though others attached these hyphenated labels to them.
An outgrowth of the Civil Rights movement in America—a movement that sought to ensure that all people are treated properly and in the same manner regardless of national heritage, race, religion, or gender—was a proliferation of federal government policies that quickly began to undermine the melting-pot principle. Affirmative Action regulations required employers to segregate job applicants and those seeking admission to colleges and universities by race, gender, age, and ethnicity—an action diametrically opposed to the goal of the Civil Rights movement and the melting-pot principle. Not content with requiring segregation on paper, the federal government began to adopt pro-minority policies that made it financially worthwhile to check the boxes on applications and forms that indicated minority status.
For example, the government contracting regulation known as the “8A” program requires that large government contractors subcontract at least ten percent of their government work to minority-owned small businesses. Colleges and universities started giving special consideration to applicants who could claim any level of minority status. Employers began to feel pressured to fill job openings with minority applicants, regardless of their qualifications. In short, once the federal government got involved the incentive for immigrants changed from eventual assimilation to permanent self-segregation.
The melting pot was never a perfect concept, but was a good concept and it is a concept that America needs to re-embrace, endorse, and encourage. The first step is to eliminate all government policies that encourage self-segregation. Just eliminating boxes on applications and government forms that require people to self-identify in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity would be a start in the right direction. Another step in the right direction would be to designate English as the official language of the United States. Nothing divides people faster or more effectively than not speaking the same language.