"Mom, can you explain something?"
Kate looked up from the computer. Celia was carrying her Sociology book and a quizzical look.
"Sit down." She patted a chair across the table and extended the bag of soy chips toward her daughter. "What's going on?"
Celia made a face and pushed the soy chips back in Kate's direction. "Well, in history we heard all about how the people came over from England and formed the thirteen colonies and they made up the United States, right?"
Kate agreed. Celia continued, "So we formed this group of states, and other countries came here, but everyone was supposed to be bonding together. You know, a melting pot."
Kate turned away from the computer and retrieved the bag of chips before Celia could change her mind. This conversation was probably going to require her concentration. "A melting pot. That's right."
Celia turned the book so that Kate could see what she was now reading, and pointed to a phrase that Kate had to squint to see. "The salad bowl," read Kate. "What's that?"
"That's what we're supposed to say now," explained Celia. "America's not a melting pot anymore."
"Not according to this book - or to Dr. Beck."
"I don't get it," replied Kate.
"Well, the book says in the beginning of our country, in order to become strong we had to merge everyone's cultural heritage into one mixture. That's the melting pot. E Pluribus Unum and all that junk"
"Right," agreed Kate. The chip bag was empty and she began to scan the pantry shelf, to see if there were any more. "And the salad bowl thing?"
"That's what the book says we're becoming now. With all the push for tolerance of diversity, everyone is discovering and celebrating their own ethnic heritage - and everyone else is supposed to respect it."
"Well, that's good, right?"
"Yeah, I guess. Dr. Beck says this diversity is like a salad bowl, because in a salad, each individual vegetable keeps its own specific taste; and, yet, we call it a salad. In the same way, everyone in our country can celebrate their diversity and yet all belong to one country."
"OK," concluded Kate. "Salad bowl. It's a different way to see it, I guess. So, why does it confuse you?"
Celia shook her head. "I'm not sure," she replied. "But it seems weird that our name is the United States - but by becoming so conscious of everyone's diversity, it's kind of like we're splitting up instead of uniting."
Kate found a new bag of chips and opened it, while she thought it over. "Well, Celie... think of it this way. Why do you dress the way you do?"
"Because it's what everyone wears. Is this another lecture about my tank tops?"
Kate laughed. "No. Although that yellow one..."
"OK, it's not a lecture. You usually wear jeans and those tank tops or a tee shirt – and that's the way most of the kids at your school dress.”
“Well, sometimes, you wear that flowered jumpsuit. That isn't exactly what I see the other kids wearing." Kate grabbed some more chips.
"But Nana gave that jumpsuit to me. It helps me remember her. I like it"
"That's right. You usually dress in the same way as everyone else; you are united with your classmates. But you also go your own way with the jumpsuit"
Celia's eyes lit up. "OK, yeah! I get it! I'm united … but I'm diverse. I'm like...the United States of Celia. Or something."
"Thanks, Mom. You're pretty smart. At least about most stuff."
"Thanks, I think." She hugged Celia and smiled as she turned back to the computer. Her hand dove back into the chip bag. She had a feeling she'd be seeing Celia in that jumpsuit when she came back downstairs.
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