I knew it. The moment I saw Coca Cola’s Super Bowl ad, I knew there was going to be turmoil. As soon as I heard “America The Beautiful” in Spanish followed by other languages, I knew the racist, prejudiced, bigoted uproar was coming. For so long, America has lived under an unrealistic idealized expectation of “true” Americanism. It is often supported in every day speech like, “All American Girl” and “Hometown Boy.” When we hear “All American Girl,” what immediately comes to mind is a thin, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman. However, those are mainstreamed ideals of exclusion, in which people that don’t possess this look are othered and marginalized. Coca Cola as a corporation can be critiqued for many issues. However their latest commercial has added to an important discussion about who is truly American.
The truth is a girl wearing her hijab and speaking Arabic is an “All American Girl.” A young woman speaking Spanish and shopping in a bodega is an “All American Girl.” A woman speaking Igbo at church is “All American.” A “Hometown Boy” may easily speak Korean as a first language. This is America and to think otherwise is to delude one’s self. Our identity as Americans is not preluded by a certain ethnicity, dress code or way of speaking. Additionally, critics of the commercial believe that English is the only language for America, forgetting that American English is highly influenced by a litany of cultures and languages.
Perhaps this all stems from fear. The fact it is, America is browning. According to the Census Bureau, ”50.4 percent of our nation’s population younger than age 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011. This is up from 49.5 percent from the 2010 Census taken April 1, 2010.”
The Associated Press reported, “The government also projects that in five years, minorities will make up more than half of children under 18. Not long after, the total U.S. white population will begin an inexorable decline in absolute numbers, due to aging baby boomers.”
They go on to state:
As a whole, the nonwhite population increased by 1.9 percent to 116 million, or 37 percent of the U.S. The fastest percentage growth is among multiracial Americans, followed by Asians and Hispanics. Non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the U.S.; Hispanics, 17 percent; blacks, 12.3 percent; Asians, 5 percent; and multiracial Americans, 2.4 percent.
America is getting browner everyday and this fact paralyzes some people, especially those who have become accustomed to Eurocentric ideals of Americanism. The fear of the “other” drives voter suppression laws, the prison industrial complex and racial profiling. These are enacted to prevent marginalized Americans from having full access to the benefits of citizenship.
Regardless of where the hatred stems from, “America The Beautiful” only holds true to its name if we recognize the beauty in all of America’s citizens, not just the ones that have been mainstreamed or appear to represent the dominant culture. When Langston Hughes penned those prophetic words, “I Too Am America”, he was putting America on notice. You can deal with it now or you can accept it later but I too am American. And I’m not going away.
Jessica Ann Mitchell