Even as a minority child, I never liked the melting pot analogy. It was presented as an intellectual ideal with an occasional acknowledgment by usually a mainstream adult that it may not always play out in reality (i.e. Yup, sometimes that’s the way the old ball bounces/So I’ll just ask you how many times that happened to you?)
But ideals are good things right? They are something to shoot for. It’s so simple it should go without saying. People are more amenable to feel bonded with folks who are more like them, so in order to be accepted as an American one must be liked!
What better way to show your new country and society you care enough that you will pull all stops to be just like everyone else, follow the path of least resistance and melt right into the old pot (i.e. Who in their right mind does not want to be liked?/Are you dying to be told be nice, be quiet and Just get with the program?)
Of course when you melt down all sorts of ingredients in a stew, what you're eventually going to get is a conglomeration, which is why good cooks have a preconceived template for what particular dominant flavor or flavors ought to be so the general recipe would not loose its flavor.
So, if you will, the right amount of social and cultural blending the majority had in mind was heavily skewed (ethnocentric bias*) with those components. And it could be said in some cases the flavors were as ingrained as they were obvious, and many people were honestly oblivious for years until the details were pointed out (i.e. Everyone knows a stew starts with meat or fish to which you add vegetables./How about soy cakes (tofu) and reconstituted (kombu) dried seaweed?)
Back in my day the basic school reader depicted generic people and families as being Caucasian. Remember Dick and Jane? Once or twice if I remember correctly, if the question was ever asked, we were told that to consider the illustrations of the white people as the generic symbol for humanity. Apparently it was too much of a bother or the books would cost too much more to ask the artist or publishers to go to the extra effort or trouble to put in everyone!
But when I got a little older, it was likewise discovered textbook budgets could be stretched and both artists and publishers would cooperate an include at least one illustration per crowd of a non-white person and some people thought then that was the good old days.
Non-Caucasians continued to be shown when applicable in ethnic dress, illustrating they were obviously foreign and oh so not really like us. If I ever saw say, a girl with my skin color, hair and eye shape in a book illustration as a child, she would be wearing a kimono which I never did in real life. Sometimes I couldn't even recognize her to be Asian, but I never had the same trouble with pictures of generic people.
When Asians came into the frame on television and in movies, they were either (a) evil villains, (b) badly made-up white people or (c) household servants. Back then, you could observe something similar with other people of color. Generic actors and actresses had more range.
As a child, it was clear that Asian men were good cooks, excellent gardeners and so good at answering the door that a model father couldn't be caught dead without one! To put yourself in my shoes you’d have to be able to imagine what the world would be like if it was reversed. Imagine America exactly the same – ideals and all and a grown up version of me as a generic woman fretting about having to replace my white cook!
So back in the late 70's when I was a undergrad at the University of Washington and taking what was called Asian-American Studies, I was introduced to descriptive terminology suggested a different more democratic way to describe America. Rather than a stew, it was a salad (i.e. all the ingredients have their own unique characteristics).
In this analogy it's the distinct ingredients that give the dish flavor rather than all flavors subordinate to one or a select few. Yes! This was an idea I could go with and more importantly give my heart.
The discussions and differences that we have had in society over words (an issue that has been unfairly dismissed by the denigrating term politically correct by those who would prefer not to make the effort) is about being able to have the right despite race, color, gender, income, education, sexual orientation or whatever even when you are in the minority, and to define yourself and who you are.
Within the narrow framework of my own limited cultural roots - as a descendant of Japanese immigrants who entered the US in the early 1900's and settled on the West Coast, it can be observed that the high rate of marriages and subsequent births outside the community has resulted in numerous relations who don't fit the stereotype. Does that end the issue? Others will have to answer.
I'm happy to see a Japanese-American community queen or two in years since of many colors, because some of us in turn have been able to come to the conclusion that who we are is more importantly - a matter of heart.
And if that intangible something which can be described as a Japanese-American community ever ceases to exist it will because the choice to leave whatever that is physically or in our mind’s eye has come voluntary from the spirit.
The willingness of all people to offer others as Kurz described "wiggle room" space in and outside the family and community to define themselves, as well as the amount of sensitivity brought by individuals to respect both the right to do so and allow for individual personal preferences, is an empowering expression of love, support and justice on the highest order! We are all deserving. The topic should never cease to have a place on the agenda and space on the floor. Anything less is politics…
(* Editors note: That was also the day when the Western civilization by itself alone was going to save the world. I'm not saying they weren't qualified or they didn't try, but it's pretty clear our ambitions then overstepped our capacity to do so.)