America has always been perceived as land full of opportunities, and many people have found their way into the continent, thus, making America their home. Although the United States Constitution recognizes all men as equal, color has contributed largely to the fate of most Americans. Cultural pluralism is the notion that individual ethnic groups should be allowed to exist on their own terms in a given society without abandoning their own unique cultural heritage. The US census identifies six key ethnic and racial groups, even though there exist other smaller groups, thus, making it hard to categorize all the elements within the massive American melting pot.
The US encountered a period of immigration in the nineteenth century, although first European settlers began to arrive in the country from the seventeenth century. The US census has recognized six major ethnic and racial groups that constitute the American population. They include Native Americans, White Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and people of mixed races. The US census has also categorized Americans into either Hispanic/Latinos or Non-Hispanic, where Hispanic/Latinos are perceived as a racially assorted group, which is the largest minority ethnic group in the country.
The current US population is a combination of diverse groups of immigrants who have different ancestral origin. The largest movement of immigrants from Germany managed to find its way into the US in mid-nineteenth century. The Germans came to the US after encountering civil unrest and high levels of unemployment in the country (O’Connor, Lubin & Spector, 2013). Most of the German-Americans are currently found in non-coastal states, particularly in Arizona. Black or African Americans have their origin in Sub-Saharan Africa where their ancestors were picked to work as slaves in the Caribbean as early as the seventeenth century.
In the late nineteenth century, as well as early twentieth century, many immigrants arrived in the US, leading to anti-immigrant backlash in the form of racism, nativism, and other types of intolerance. The Irish and Mexican immigrants arrived in the US in the nineteenth century. The Irish immigrant sparked mass migration to the US in 1840s due to great famine in Ireland, and they have settled in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and San Franscisco (Jerreat, 2013). On the other hand, Mexicans have settled in Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Houston, after leaving their country in search of employment.
While African Americans are considered as the largest racial minority group in the US, Hispanic/Latino Americans are the largest ethnic minority group, as it incorporates immigrants from Central, as well as South America. African Americans mostly inhabit South states, where their ancestors used to work in plantations as slaves before Reconstruction. Other black immigrants also found their way into the US from the West Indian countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic (Tischler, 2014). Some of the French and English settlers who colonized North America in the seventeenth century did not return to their homeland. Instead, they opted to remain in Louisiana while others settled along the North East border region.
White Americans’ population is the largest in almost all states, and their highest proportion is found in the Middle Western states. However, a large number of White Americans who reside in south are uncertain about their ancestors, and their existence is only proved through political statement. Some of the White Americans are of mixed race, thus, categorizing them in one race or ethnic group is quite difficult. Italians and Polish people have continued to flock in the US since the nineteenth century, and their numbers has soared in the twentieth century, particularly during World War 1, as they attempt to find employment opportunities in large cities of Chicago, Cleveland, and New York (Jerreat, 2013).
The US is considered as a melting pot rather than a divisive independence because several ethnic and racial groups are capable of coexisting together as a single nation, despite their differences. Due to the existence of numerous ethnic groups, the melting point is perceived to work in a manner that transforms a diverse society into something uniform, which can assist in developing national cohesion (Smith, 2012). In a melting point, cultural differences are less essential than unity. The conception of cultural pluralism offers an alternative to the melting pot, where immigrants are required to assimilate to the American culture through ditching their own culture and traditions. Cultural pluralism enables ethnic groups to share customs, thus, broadening their thinking in terms of education, art, history, as well as other features of life.
The US is a land of immigrants and its history of immigration began when the first indigenous people entered the country from Asia through the ice bridge that linked Asia to North America. Indigenous people occupy constitutes a small fraction of the US population, as most of the US population incorporates immigrants from diverse regions of the globe. The US has strived to create a sense of unity and eliminate the possibility of political and social divisions based on ethnic and racial diversity. The concept of melting pot was meant to integrate immigrants into the American culture while maintaining their individual characters. Although the melting pot contributed in the development of multiculturalism, the aspect of racial discrimination is still rife in some regions. Fortunately, Americans rarely consider cultural differences as vital as they perceive their unity.
Jerreat, J. (2013, Sept. 1). The map that shows where America came from: Fascinating illustration shows the ancestry of EVERY county in the US. Daily Mail. Retrieved on 16 may 2016 f
O’Connor, L., Lubin, G., & Spector, D. (2013, Aug. 13). The Largest Ancestry Groups In The United States. Business Insider.
Smith, D. M. (2012). The American melting pot: A national myth in public and popular discourse. National Identities, 14(4), 387-402. doi:10.1080/14608944.2012.732054
Tischler, H. L. (2014). Introduction to sociology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.