Salad anyone?

The United States of America has been described as a melting pot or as a salad bowl. Clearly, the USA’s obsession with food is real, but that is another topic altogether!

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I grew up hearing the USA described as a “melting pot”, but others grew up hearing the term “salad bowl.” While both terms can be offensive and perhaps are not the best way to describe the genetic/racial/cultural/ethnic/etc make-up of people who live here, originally, I thought that melting pot was more inclusive. Nobody can pick pieces that they don’t like out of a melting pot – as everything gets melted together.

I viewed the salad bowl concept as an easy way to say “Well, I don’t like tomatoes. Get rid of them. I don’t like carrots. Get rid of them too.” Obviously, tomatoes and carrots are metaphors for different groups of people. Additionally, different salad ingredients are not “equal” – think Iceberg lettuce vs. organic spinach (in my opinion at least). The melting pot metaphor also suggests that “we are one” (cue in Lion King II song) and that we are equal. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to another side of the story.

Perhaps the salad bowl concept is more inclusive (if either term is inclusive at all) because it calls for us to celebrate our diversity. It suggests that people do not have to lose their unique identities by “melting” into other. The melting pot analogy can suggest that people must abandon their cultures in order to successfully integrate into the “American” culture. In salads, different ingredients do not lose their individual characteristics, whereas if you threw salad ingredients in a pot and melted them, you would lose the semblance of the individual.

What do other people think? Which metaphor is better? What other metaphors could be used instead?

2 Replies to “Salad anyone?”

  1. You bring up a good point. I would have said before that I much prefer the term melting pot, but that does sort of minimize our differences. It also implies that we collectively have one identity, which I don’t think is true. I guess I would prefer salad… as long as all of the ingredients are welcome. 🙂

  2. What if metaphors primarily serve to make it easier to overlook and downplay differences? While the metaphors might help with some conversations, they might also end up reducing complex histories, identities, circumstances to oversimplified terms.

    Who benefits from these metaphors? Who doesn’t?

    What if we ditch the metaphors for diversity altogether?

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