One of the defining metaphors of the United States has been that our country is a “melting pot” of immigrants from around the globe. But this powerful ideal also coexists alongside an anti-immigration sentiment that has persisted throughout our nation’s history.
Many new populations have come to America over the centuries: Some came in pursuit of a more prosperous life; some came in search of protection from religious, ethnic, or political persecution. Others were brought across the Atlantic against their will. And some Americans’ ancestors were here long before the first Europeans arrived.
In spite of these differences in origin, we all grapple with the concept of what being a “nation of immigrants” entails, as each incoming community has contributed its respective heritage and culture to American society. And we celebrate that diversity today in our foods, our arts, our sciences, our entrepreneurship, our politics, and our faiths. But we also cherish the notion of a shared American identity that transcends our individual differences.
Sometime people see these two different perspectives as a source of friction — but others see these as the core of America’s great strength.
Watch the full video from the Smithsonian: “What Does It Mean To Be An American Today?”