Oct 27 2006

Black Agenda Radio on the Melting Pot

| the entire program

GUEST: Glen Ford is a writer and radio commentator and the Executive Editor of The Black Agenda Report

Visit www.blackagendareport.com. This week’s commentary is called:

The Melting Pot

There’s a cliché that goes, “America is always reinventing itself.” Another way of saying this is, “White Americans are constantly lying about themselves and the country.” This continuous process of revisionism – the reinventing of history – is also the mechanism that allows white America to deny that it is committing current crimes, because a nation so good, so-well-meaning as this fictional United States could not possibly be engaged in worldwide atrocities. When American domestic and international crimes can no longer be denied, they are called “mistakes,” “aberrations out of sync with the national character, which is fundamentally benign, generous, humanitarian. Most of white America believes these lies, even as they support murderous, illegal wars abroad and refuse to forge a true social contract with non-whites at home.

Within the American mythology, there are outright lies, and there are lies of omission – like the failure to mention that the Indians who feasted with the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving were later massacred by these same Pilgrims. The American narrative is highly selective. One of the best examples of selective, politically edited Americana is the nation-praising slogan, “America is a melting pot” – five words that are supposed to sum up the inclusive, transforming nature of United States society. The problem is, the original sentence has been edited.

The “melting pot” slogan – now marketed as a kind of national advertisement – is derived from a 1908 play of the same name, written by an English Jew named Israel Zangwill. The original language in the play goes like this: “America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting Pot where all the races of Europe are melting [and] reforming!…. German and Frenchman, Irishman and Englishman, Jews and Russians…” No mention of Blacks, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, or Chinese. Just “the races of Europe.”
“The play was a celebration of the expanding definition of whiteness in the United States at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.”

What the playwright, Mr. Zangwill, was actually describing was the process by which America transformed what were then called different “races” in Europe into one white American race. Non-whites were not to be part of this “whitening” process, although Mr. Zangwill, the English-born Jew, certainly expected that he would gain full membership in this glorious white nation. His play was a celebration of the expanding definition of whiteness in the United States at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The play was a big hit, but would have closed immediately had it projected the inclusion of non-Europeans in the “melting pot.”

The message was not about universal humanity, or even pan-Americanism – it was pan-European. Therefore, historical revisionists had to cut the actual sentence from the play in half, preserving just the first five words, “America is a melting pot,” in order to conform to the selective narrative that white America presents to itself and the world. It’s all propaganda – lies of commission and omission: white noise. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford.

One response so far

One Response to “Black Agenda Radio on the Melting Pot”

  1. Louis Armmandon 28 Oct 2006 at 5:13 pm

    Great and necessary to listen to every morning before going to work!