Some people describe American society as a salad bowl while others see it as a melting pot. In a sense both are correct depending upon one’s point of view. This ethnic multiplicity is a result of the history of immigration. Until the Immigration Law of 1924 the country was a “melting pot” of nations. The original settlers of the Atlantic colonies were chiefly from the British Isles. In addition numerous black African slaves were imported to work the plantations in the South. By the mid – 19th century, as settlement of the West was accelerating, Irish and German immigrants came in great numbers soon to be followed by Scandinavians. After the Civil war the new arrivals were mainly from east and south Europe. Since World War II there has been an influx of Spanish speaking people especially Mexicans. In recent years there have been large numbers from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In a bowl of freshly tossed salad, all the ingredients are mixed together. Yet they never lose their shape, form or identity. Together, however, the ingredients make up a unity. In a sense, all the ingredients of a salad contribute to the finished product. They may be covered with the same dressing, but the green vegetables, tomatoes, lettuce and eggs can all be seen for what they are. From this point of view, America is very much like a salad bowl where individual ethnic groups blend together, yet maintain their cultural uniqueness. They may work together during the day at similar jobs and in identical companies, but at night they may return to their ethnic communities where the flavor of their individual culture dominates their way of life. This is why perhaps there is so much diversity within America. Each group has its own special interests, language, food, customs and traditions to protect and defend. This idea of the salad bowl is referred to by sociologists as cultural pluralism. It simply means that American society is a collection of many cultures living side by side within one country.

The other concept which is also used to describe American society is that of the melting pot. In this usage, society is like a pot of stew or a cauldron of porridge. All of the ingredients mix and blend together losing their identity and yield a bit of what they were to become a new reality. A pot of stew is very different from a bowl of salad. Within the stew, the meat and vegetables in the cooking process give to each other a bit of their own flavor. The longer the stew is allowed to simmer, the better the taste and the more likely it will be for the mixture to dissolve.

In this sense America can surely be seen as a melting pot where people from all over the world come to live and work together forming one nation. In such a culture there are dozens of shared symbols which serve to develop all of the various ethnic groups to create culture. The flag, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance all serve to break down the walls which isolate ethnic groups.

The melting pot evokes another image; that of the colonial quilt which is made out of fragments of different material but fashioned into one blanket. Whether a salad bowl or a melting pot, America can best be described as a mixture of both; that is to say, a nation where there is unity in diversity.

I. Multiple choice.

1. What has brought about the ethnic multiplicity in America?

A The salad bowl

B The melting pot

C Its history of immigration

D The immigration law of 1924


2. Where did the original settlers to America come from?

A From Spain

B From England

C From the British Isles

D From Germany


3. Why were blacks brought to America?

A The were needed to work on vegetable farms

B The were needed to work on Southern plantations

C They were a source of cheap labor

D The were escaping persecution


4. Which groups came to America by the mid-19th century in large numbers?

A The Irish and Germans

B The Swedes

C The Scandinavians

D The Southern Europeans


5. Which groups of people came to America after the Civil War?

A The Asians

B The Eastern Europeans

C The Southern Europeans

D The Eastern and Southern Europeans


6. Which groups came to America after World War II?

A People from Spain

B People from Puerto Rico

C Many Hispanics especially Mexicans

D Africans and Asians


7. Which concept best expresses the of “salad bowl”?

A cultural integration

B cultural pluralism

C ethnic identity

D ethnic homogeneity


8. Which best describes the concept of “melting pot”?

A cultural unification

B assimilation

C ethnic consolidation

D Cultural homogeneity


9. Which of the following is not a shared symbol of American society?

A The National Anthem

B The American flag

C The Pledge of Allegiance

D Local neighborhoods


10. Which other image best describes the concept of “melting pot:?

A a knitted blanket

B an American quilt

C a colonial handicraft

D the American flag



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