The metaphor which describes diversity best is the most recent one, “kaleidoscope.” While its superiority over the “melting pot” is obvious enough, the difference from “salad bowl” requires some explanation.
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The earliest and most recognizable metaphor, the “melting pot,” has received so much criticism it is unlikely to be used nowadays with a positive connotation. The main point of criticism to it is the emphasis on assimilation which is depicted through melting – itself a very powerful image. Aside from the presupposition that it strips the individuals of identity, it implies a certain level of power which the newcomers cannot overcome, giving it the authoritarian feel. However, it certainly gets one thing right which the next contestant misses. The “salad bowl,” introduced in the seventies (Schaefer 12), attempted to emphasize the individuality instead of transformation. It certainly is true that the contemporary American society is more favorable to pluralism, making it possible for the citizens to retain their personality and at the same time take part in the creation of the unique society (the salad, in this case).
However, the salad metaphor omits one important detail, the one which probably was the reason behind the “melting pot” one: the society inevitably changes its members. No matter how much the current community embraces the diversity, it eventually alters everyone, or, to be more precise, the presence of the people around you does. Like the light that passes through the colored glass shards in the kaleidoscope change the color of each next piece, and once the pieces shuffle, the process repeats, producing each time new environment. Besides, while the pot analogy is irreversible, possessing a vibe of doom, the process inside the kaleidoscope is fluent, ever-moving, and does no permanent change to the shards. Of course, the amusing and joyous nature of the toy also contributes to the pleasant impression.
The category of race has a long history of presence in the human culture. As recently as half a century ago, the American society was influenced by the notion of race on a major scale, with many traces of it still visible today (Bonilla-Silva xiv). The race was predominantly determined by the biological characteristics, most famously the skin color. Interestingly, it is currently a scientifically established fact that biologically speaking, race does not exist. The notion has been exhaustively studied by experts in genetics, anthropology, and psychology, and all of the data has added up to a conclusive statement: there are no distinctive differences shared by any group of people that can be interpreted as the racial characteristics (Mountain and Risch 48). Paradoxically, race remains relevant as a biological construct in some fields. The lack of distinctive characteristics does not mean that all people are the same, and some of the differences can be extrapolated from the “racial features.” The field of healthcare notably takes advantage of it by disaggregating health records to produce a more comprehensive data on population health (Ioannidis, Ntzani, and Trikalinos 1313). Thus, despite being scientifically disproved as a biological concept, its biological manifestations still have certain value.
On the other hand, the field of sociology continues to produce evidence of the race as a social construct. The concept of racism is still firmly embedded in the human culture, and while its conclusions regarding inequality are fundamentally wrong, the underlying statement is true: humans can be viewed as groups with similar characteristics, but the reasons for the similarities are cultural and social (Smedley and Smedley 25). Unfortunately, this is also sometimes regarded as a justification for inequality, and the signs of the social racism are still more prominent than is desired (Feagin 143). Nevertheless, the race as a social construct can be helpful in understanding and improving discrepancies in modern society, so its relevance is arguably greater than its biological manifestations.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America, Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013. Print.
Feagin, Joe. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations, New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.
Ioannidis, John, Evangelia Ntzani, and Thomas Trikalinos. “‘Racial’differences in genetic effects for complex diseases.” Nature genetics 36.12 (2004): 1312-1318. Print.
Mountain, Joanna and Neil Risch. “Assessing genetic contributions to phenotypic differences among’racial’and’ethnic’groups.” Nature genetics 36 (2004): 48-53. Print.
Schaefer, Richard. Racial and Ethnic Groups, Boston, Massachusetts:Pearson, 2014. Print.
Smedley, Audrey and Brian Smedley. “Race as biology is fiction, racism as a social problem is real: Anthropological and historical perspectives on the social construction of race.” American Psychologist 60.1 (2005): 16-26. Print.