Sunday, April 26, 2009

Melting Pots

Xenophobia would be far too strong a term to describe the kind of prejudice, lack of warmth and indifference I have experienced as a minority is many parts of America. When I read this article where Ireland is described as a Xenophobic melting point, I realize that it does say something about my immigrant experience in America.

You could throw in a bunch of interesting and independently wonderful ingredients into a stew pot and have the end product come out tasting quite nasty simply because they did not blend and harmonize well together. That is what would come out of a xenophobic melting pot as well.

You will have a myriad of cultures represented by their little strip mall grocery stores and restaurants along with an occasional place of worship. There is some commerce and traffic from the mainstream into all of these places but the process of blending and assimilation either does not happen or is left incomplete. In the stew/soup analogy these would be all the ingredients that don't belong in the recipe and as a result don't end up making the whole richer than the sum of the parts.

Indeed, sometimes they stand out like aberrations that would serve the soup so much better by not being there at all and would provoke the prejudice that immigrants often experience abroad. Unfortunately, in an immigrant situation removing the out of place ingredients is not as easily done. So you have to make do with this concoction that tastes somewhat odd and the taste rankles the palate.

The other kind of melting pot would be one where foreigners and their cultures imbue the mainstream with a distinct flavor but also takes on enough of its form and texture to not stand out as a completely distinct entity. I have experienced this in certain parts of America.This is the kind of melting pot most immigrants dream of finding themselves in a foreign country. However, due to lapses on both sides of the equation, the ideal is very hard to realize.

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