Staff Writer: Sneha Dev

A melting pot contains a variety of elements and colors that overlap, resulting in people not just sharing qualities, but also coming together in order to flourish in unison. That’s what I had envisioned when I thought about New York City. More interestingly, a city where all cultures were shared in various manners for example, foods, traditions, languages, and festivals. Yet, while there were different components and they did occasionally mix, a large portion of the pot consisted of the same color instead of the blending of colors. When I ask people,“Is New York a melting pot?”, they state something more similar to …”It is more of a series of similar groups coming together…there is quite a bit of a bias between people of different value systems that goes unseen.”

Just decades ago, cultural bias and clashes between people of different races were beginning to see further acknowledgement. One example, and arguably the most well known one, is the intra-national gang wars between those living in the same area. This includes the gang wars between Irish and Italian settlers, which were frequently seen throughout the 20th century over ownership of land and other types of territory. After the Irish claimed New York’s waterfront, it became a catalyst for nationalism. So, as young Italians began to enter via this same front, violence quickly brewed between the groups. These New Yorkers naturally gravitated towards people of their own group for comfort and security. In this case, unison exists, considering they all live in the same city, but there is tension and bias embedded within the foundation of the pot. A sort of division hidden under the facade of unity that not many beyond New York City’s population cared to understand. 

 Night time, city view of people, buildings, stores, and places to eat. (nycgo.com)

This event raises the question, is gravitating towards people of their own group always such a bad thing? To continue discussing this conflict, let’s consider values and ethics. Conflicts occurred not just between individuals of different cultures, but also between people of different ideals.The Stonewall Riots, for example, was between the New York City gay community and the police forces. They started protests in response to police raids and police brutality against them. This was viewed as a watershed moment for the LGBTQ+ community since instead of assimilating and blindly following the harsh laws of New York’s legislation, the community stood up and fought back. Instead of harmoniously integrating with the rest, certain bits of the pot remained unique, retaining the attributes of their values and priorities. These values give people strength – a reason to fight. So while the division within the people of New York City can cause hate crimes and wars, it also sets the ground for growth and beneficial change.  

Constantly being around New Yorkers and recognizing their culture allowed me to become interested in looking back at the history of New York City through a new lens. Instead of viewing it in its perfect condition, in which people naturally coexist, we witness conflicts that contribute to the meaning of New York City and indicate its durability and prosperity- that mold the cracks in the pot. Although this may not be as idealistic as a melting pot, this sense of multiculturalism provides reality, individuality, and appeal. More crucially, it reveals the truth that allows for us to transform our perceptions of New York City’s identity.

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