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Volume 72, Issue 97, Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Opinion

‘Melting pot' down to a simmer

Florian Martin
Opinion Columnist

America has always been known as a nation formed from other nations. When immigrants were predominantly European, America became known as "the melting pot" -- people from different countries united as one. Unfortunately, America's nickname is no longer accurate.

On many documents, such as university applications, surveys or driver's license forms, one is asked to check his or her race. According to the 2005 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, about 75 percent of Americans are white, 12 percent are black, 14 percent are Latino (of different races) and four percent are of Asian descent. While this information gives a representation of the population, it also emphasizes differences among people.

It is true that different ethnic groups have had distinct histories in this country. It was Native Americans who lived here first. It was people from Europe who first immigrated in an organized fashion and built a new nation. People from Latin American countries are mostly descendants of Europeans, Africans and indigenous people who then either crossed the border to the north or were crossed by the border. The group with the most difficult history is probably members of the black population, who were brought here against their will and spent 200 years working as slaves. 

All races have suffered discrimination, and it was only about 40 years ago that legislative discrimination was finally eliminated. Given this historical struggle for equality, it is no wonder that minority groups strongly embrace their own traditions and cultures.

Unfortunately, stereotypes of all different groups persist and it will take more than just time to overcome them and move closer together. One example of the absurdity of racial distinction in America is the media hype about Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. It should not matter what ethnicity, race or religion a candidate is, what should matter is whether he has the ability to lead his country. 

In contrast to American society, Mexico and most Latin American countries have much less racism. Spanish and Portuguese immigrants have intermarried with the indigenous population as well as with African slaves for most of these countries' histories. As a result, people have fewer reasons to draw divisions between each other. Immigrants to the United States from Latin America are usually classified as one ethnic category, though they can be of different races. Despite these differences they stick together, while celebrating their own traditions and history.

In order to solve the problem of dividing races and cultures, this nation will have to do the same. People must cross racial borders and focus on the commonalities that we have as the human race, rather than physical or historical differences.

Since the history of separation in the United States is long and deep, the only way to become one nation might be to actually become a true "melting pot."

Martin, a communication senior, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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