Who Defines the “Real” America?

Who Defines the “Real” America? February 7, 2017

For the Super Bowl this year, Coca Cola reused their 2014 commercial:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhP5sDUnF6c

The commercial depicts people—white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Jewish, Muslim, and more—accompanied by a rendition of America the Beautiful.

In comments on the video’s youtube posting, multiple individuals expressed confusion—why so many foreigners, isn’t this America, they asked? And yes, it is America—and the problem, I think, is that many people, especially white people, live in bubbles, and don’t know what America—all of it—actually looks like.

Most white people live in segregated communities. The majority of white people don’t have any nonwhite friends. Their kids go to schools that are 95% white, despite the fact that over 50% of babies born today are non-white. Their white communities and white towns, sprinkled with a few minorities, are what they know. To them, that is normal. To them, that is America.

But that America leaves out many other Americas. It leaves out the diversity of the country’s big cities, the Hispanic and Native American population of the Southwest, and the high percentage of Asian Americans on the West Coast, among many others. That white America is presented as normative, but it is no more a realistic representation of the demographics of the country than is the heavily African American Chicago south side Trump is so fond of talking about.

Twenty-five percent of American children have at least one immigrant parent.

Historically, the melting pot has been a popular way to discuss immigration in the United States. The reality is not so simple—we are more a salad bowl than we are a melting pot. And that means that no one race, no one culture, no one region has the authority to define the “real” America. We are a country of many Americas, a country of difference, a country of rich diversity.

I suspect that this is why this particular Coca Cola Super Bowl commercial struck such a nerve for so many—in combining multiple snapshots, so to speak, it painted a picture of the cultural variety that so defines this country.

In the end, I’m tired of the idea that white America is the “real” America—as though there were one “real” America. We need more commercials (and other media) that push back against the idea that white is normative and everything else is other. We need to remember that even white was constructed—that Irish and German and Italian immigrants faced pushback from native-born Americans whose own ancestors, too, were immigrants. We are not a country of white people and foreigners. We are a country of Americans.

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