So I’ve had immigration and cultural diversity on my mind a lot recently. Maybe it’s because of the international spirit of sportsmanship that’s oozing out of the Olympics. Or maybe it’s because of the recent “controversy” over Coca-Cola’s multilingual rendition of America the Beautiful. Considering that I just read something on that today, the Coca Cola thing is probably what got my mind going on it.
I read Matt Walsh’s piece on the supposed controversy and thought he made some valid points, per usual. But then I actually saw some of the ridiculous backlash against the ad for myself from so-called conservatives. And what stuck out to me was this: people seemed to be mad about the ad because the song wasn’t entirely in English, and that it’s somehow un-American and anti-freedom. The main message behind these sentiments is a message to immigrants: learn English and American culture or get out. While learning English and American culture are both virtuous pursuits for immigrants, the emphasis all too often seems to be on the “get out” part.
Now, I’m not going to discuss illegal immigration vs. legal immigration because for the purpose of this blog, I frankly don’t care. I just want to talk about immigrants in general. I thought the Coca-Cola commercial was really cool because it showed that America doesn’t just belong to you if you speak English (again, put the legal vs. illegal issue out of your mind for just a little bit). And you know what? I was watching the Superbowl with a group of Russian immigrants. One of them commented, “I love it when they do ads that show diversity.” As an immigrant herself, my friend really appreciated Coca-Cola’s effort to demonstrate the beauty of diversity in American culture.
Most of us will never know what it’s like to be an immigrant. We will have no idea what it means to leave the country we were born into and have to assimilate to an entirely different culture and language. That’s got to be really difficult. But all too often, people look at it as just a political debate in which you throw bullet points back and forth. “I’m tired of pressing 1 for English!” or “We need to pass a law to make English the official language of the US.” It gets kind of ridiculous.
But I have a challenge for everyone who wants to reduce immigrants [read: human beings] made in the image of God to a political debate. If you’re going to scream and shout about how English is the only thing that should ever be spoken in America, do me a favor. Go learn a foreign language. Not just study one, but learn to fluently speak another language, if only so you can experience how difficult it is. But also, so you can experience the richness that comes with being able to communicate with an entirely different culture. Hopefully, that exercise will bring a little more appreciation for immigrants and the culture they bring with them.
Our culture was founded on immigration and the contributions they brought to our nation. Yes, assimilation is a good thing and almost every immigrant wants to be able to communicate with the people that they are surrounded by. But they’re people; they do not deserve to be trashed and scorned because they don’t speak your language. After all, you don’t speak theirs either. Just give it time.
Diversity is not a bad thing; it can be beautiful. Unity is also beautiful, but there’s exists a balance between Unity and Diversity. And sometimes, maybe that balance is achieved by simply sharing a Coke. And that, I believe, is what the commercial is really about.