Roar writer Alice Delhaye on the failure of the American “melting pot” after the US Capitol riots.
Following the 2020 US election, former President Donald Trump continually denied the results of the election and his loss to now-President Joe Biden. Trump repeatedly asserted that he had won and insinuated that he would not leave office without a fight. This culminated in a protest at the United States Capitol that rapidly escalated into a violent riot on January 6, 2021. This event and Biden’s speech in response to the Capitol riot shows us that the US is failing to maintain the illusion of the “melting pot” – which has become little more than an idealised dream.
Biden, at the time President-elect, took to national TV to respond to the scenes of the Capitol riots. He told the mob and rioters to stop this assault. He called out President Trump, saying that he needed to “step up” and intervene. However, what was bothersome about his address to the nation was his assertion that this uprising did not represent the United States. He stated that “the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are”. But it does.
Indeed, there are so many examples that illustrate the deep social, ideological, and cultural cleavages within the United States.
One of them is the death of bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats, resulting in the increasing polarisation of the country. In 2014, the Pew Research Center conducted a study on political polarisation in the US. It showed that the overlap between the two parties’ policies had significantly decreased during the past 25 years. The study found that “In each party, the share with a highly negative view of the opposing party has more than doubled since 1994”.
Moreover, the cleavage that I consider the deepest and the most anchored in American society is the racial one. Despite the incredible progress in the fight towards equality, racial tensions remain inherent to American societal systems. We witnessed this play out during the recent Black Lives Matter protests that took place in May and June of 2020. The goal of these demonstrations was to denounce the double standard of policing between whites and non-Caucasians. In New York City in 2018, 88% of police stops involved Black and Latino people, while only 10% involved white people. This underlines the systemic inequality of treatment that people of colour are still subjected to in American society.
These events and cleavages demonstrate that the melting pot, the symbol of the US’ motto E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one – is little more than an illusion. The goal of the melting pot is that despite the numerous differences in culture, race, and ideology the country remains united. But right now, this is only a motto. By saying that the Capitol riot does not represent America, Biden is nurturing the fantasy that the melting pot works while it fails people every day; hiding the problem and trying to avoid it, rather than finding the solution to it.