At this point, we shouldn’t be shocked by the intolerance of some towards immigrants and other cultures. But who could’ve predicted the outrage we saw over the Coca-Cola commercial that aired during last night’s Super Bowl?!
The commercial simply displayed the diversity of our great nation by showcasing people singing “America The Beautiful” in different languages—beginning in English and then Spanish before moving on to other languages. But it caused some to seriously freak out.
This tweet summed up the sentiments of many on the right: “Fuck that bullshit. This is America speak fucking English #ThanksObama#fuckcoke” Others labeled Coke as communists while others claimed that since a women in a hijab was featured in the commercial (who is actually a friend of mine), that Coke was supporting terrorism.
We even saw former Congressman Allen West—a Tea Party Darling—write: “This was a truly disturbing commercial for me.”
West explained that he knew he was supposed to accept the “politically correct” idea to “foster multiculturalism” but he wasn’t having any of it. He then quoted approvingly a passage from Teddy Roosevelt who demanded that every immigrant “should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country” because “we have room for but one language here.”
I get why these people are mad. In essence, the Coke commercial was the Ghost of Christmas Future providing them a glimpse of an America that features even more people speaking languages other than English, practicing other faiths than their own and celebrating cultures they don’t understand. That scares the crap out of them.
This is why we see an increasingly shrill and desperate tone from some conservatives when fighting over social and cultural issues. And it’s why people like Republican Congressman Steve King demonizes immigrants since it plays to the fears of his supporters.
But here’s the thing: America was intended to be a multicultural nation. The philosophy of our nation’s Founding Fathers is etched upon the Great Seal of The United States adopted by Congress in 1782. There it is written: “E pluribus Unum,” or “Out of many, one.”
It could not be more clear that the very people who created our country intended it be a place where people of different backgrounds could live together and become one as Americans. That’s exactly why my mother’s parents emigrated from Sicily, and my Palestinian father came to this country. It was the promise of nation where different backgrounds would not only be tolerated but thrive together.
And to be honest, the notion of “E pluribus Unum” is more relevant today than it was in 1782 because of our nation’s evolving demographics. Currently, racial and ethnic minorities represent approximately half of the children under age five in the U.S. And estimates are that by 2043 the white majority in the U.S. will be over. America will soon be even more diverse and multicultural.
Here’s the simple message that those who were outraged over the Coke commercial must accept: America will change with or without you.
And for all of us—left and right—we will have to learn that the term “diversity” means more than just Black and Latino. As the Coke commercial so aptly pointed out, diversity in the U.S. will also include Asians, Indians, Arabs, Pacific Islanders, and others. It will also mean making a conscious effort to include minority faiths such as Muslims and Sikhs.
In the years to come, it will be a learning experience for all us as our nation evolves into an even more beautiful mosaic. In time, hopefully those who are the most outraged over diversity will grow to accept it. It’s their choice to embrace or to be dragged along for the ride. But regardless of their decision, it will happen and that’s truly a great thing for our nation.