Is America Beautiful?

February 23, 2014

A recently released Coca Cola commercial for the Super Bowl featured Americans of different ethnicities singing “America is Beautiful” in multiple languages including English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, and Mandarin. On first glance, the ad seems innocent enough. The United States of America has always been the proverbial melting pot, home to people of different cultures, languages, religions, races, and so on. In fact, diversity is what makes America the country it is. But not everyone seemed to think so.

Controversy erupted as people took to social media in a racist frenzy, criticizing Coke for airing an American patriotic song in languages other than English. “This is America, we speak English,” seemed to be the phrase of the day, with several on Twitter declaring they would never drink Coke again.

It is exceedingly worrisome that an ad that seems to celebrate cultural diversity has offended Congressmen and common men and women alike. The xenophobic “Speak English” tirade has not been limited to ordinary people. An article on The Guardian quotes former Congressman Allen West: "If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing America the Beautiful in English by a company as American as they come – doggone we are on the road to perdition."

If Allen West’s views echo the opinions of an American majority, then we are indeed on the road to perdition. However, they do not seem to – yet. Critics of the Coke ad have their opponents, who clearly see the blatant racism of the “In America we speak English” argument.

Anyone who has even a passing interest in American history may be aware that the English language is not native to America, no more than white-skinned people are. After Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas in 1492, Spain was the first European power to settle the continents and colonize them. The Spaniards were followed by the French, English, Portuguese, and many others, in a systematic process in which native people were largely eliminated or marginalized as the Europeans took over. Needless to say, it is the English migrants who have had the most powerful influence, with 82 percent of Americans speaking English only, according to US Census 2000 statistics.

The purpose of revisiting history is to remind ourselves that English too, essentially, is a foreign import to the United States. While the majority declares it as a mother tongue, nearly 21 percent of Americans speak a language other than English at home.

With China poised to challenge the US’ superpower status and the growing influence of other developing countries, the need for tolerance, acceptance, and humility on American soil is possibly greater now than ever. And while it is easy to point the finger outward and blame Americans for being racist, it is important to use this opportunity and introspect: are we irrationally suspicious of or prejudiced against those who speak a different language or come from a different cultural background? India, too, is no stranger to divisive politics that pits groups of people against one another on caste or communal lines. Do we too unfairly discriminate against people simply because they are different?

The lesson to be learned from Coke’s ad is that diversity should not pose a threat, especially in an increasingly globalized world. It cannot be avoided, and we would do good to embrace it. The process does not just begin with loudly calling for an end to racism. If each of us were to look inward and challenge our own stereotypes and misconceptions, we would be making a step in the right direction. It starts with making a conscious effort to educate oneself , and being open to people who are different, be it in terms of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language, and so on. Everybody deserves to be respected. To put the Coke incident into perspective, America may well be beautiful. But racism is not.


Jerusha Sequeira Archives:


By Jerusha Sequeira
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Comment on this article

  • R.D'Souza, Mangalore/Dubai

    Tue, Mar 04 2014

    Well written article Jerusha. Keep up the good work and hope to see many more articles in Daijiworld.

  • Evans Christopher Sumitra, Udupi/Dubai/New York,USA.

    Tue, Mar 04 2014

    Jerusha, I liked your article and it is an eye opener to all who wish to come to the USA. There are plenty of opportunities in every field. You can come to the top as long as you can make it. You may be an Indian, Chinese. Korean, African, British, German or from any country and all have equal opportunities. Recently an American Indian became the CEO of Microsoft.

  • Kevin Lambert, Germany

    Mon, Mar 03 2014

    Good article Jerusha.. Racism is a virus present in the minds of people in most of the western countries. It cannot be cured.

  • Vidisha, Bangalore

    Sun, Mar 02 2014

    What an eye opener. It still seems like such instances are prevalent, making up unusual, newly added controversies every time.

  • Lavina castelino, Mangalore

    Sat, Mar 01 2014

    You are a budding,intelligent and smart writer Jerusha.Keep it many up.May you come with many more insightful write ups.God bless

  • Joe Saldanha, Santhekatte

    Sat, Mar 01 2014

    You are so young yet thoughtful. When I saw the add I never thought it would create so much of a fuss about a language which helped America to thrive for the last 3 centuries. More hick-ups are in store for America when its Hispanic population takes over white and black English speaking population in next 30 years. Even then nobody can deny the importance of English language in day-to-day life in America. English or no English, coke or no coke America is beautiful because only in America you can see people from every corner of the world rubbing shoulders on a busy street, trains, buses and in malls.

  • Dr. Pamela. Pinto, Wellington, New Zealand

    Thu, Feb 27 2014

    Hi Jerusha,
    My sentiments echo with yours. Racism in and by itself becomes stereotyped again, because when an individual or group says something racist, we term the whole country or its people as such! Ironically, in calling a race racist, is again, being RACIST! Blame the person (if someone wishes to) not the group/community/society/religion/race/country/continent or even planet he/she unfortunately represents.

  • Walter Lobo, Bajpe/US

    Thu, Feb 27 2014

    Indeed, America is Beautiful because it is land of the free and brave. No country does so much for freedom and liberty that America. The beauty is in the constitution, it was written some 200 plus years ago, and embraces people of all races from every country in the world- and no other country does it. Door are open for all people who come with hopes and dreams to have a second chance in life.

  • Jossie Mascarenhas, Bajpe / Dubai

    Wed, Feb 26 2014

    We Indians have got a big itch to call everything that does not appeal to us as racism. If somebody wants to live and do business in the US it is imperative that he speak their language.

    America had been open and welcomed everybody knocking on its door. But 9/11 changed it all – fortunately. Fortunately, because if it’s not for this incident, by now, certain religious ideology would have been reigning supreme there even to the extent of some of its fanatics penetrating into the most secret nuclear sites thereby posing serious threat to the very existence of planet earth. So, we are lucky that, that ‘small’ incident has alerted everybody around the world. There was a hue and cry citing that it goes against a certain religion when they wanted to introduce x-ray scanners at airports. But today it looks necessary because people hide bomb making stuff inside underwear, which security personnel cannot put their hands in ! Not everybody’s.

    So, coming back to the Coke ad, I would say, Americans got every right to impose their most popular language i.e., English. The argument that English is not America’s native language itself vindicates America is not racist. There are Indians are thriving in every sphere in the US.

    Therefore, let us not pick racism in each and everything they do. Not when we Indians stink of all similar sins of racism, casteism, communalism and whatever –ism you call it and we have it and we practice it.

    Same time, let’s not forget to call these Americans racists !

  • Dravidian, mlore

    Tue, Feb 25 2014

    We don't need a north Indian language to be our where it is said Hindi is the national language....Every language is equal in India....In a country like us English is better for us than Hindi...

  • Mervin Thomas Pinto, Mangalore/Dubai

    Tue, Feb 25 2014

    Good one, put up nicely, congrats Jeursha and keep up your good work, God bless....

  • Navin Rego, Bejai / Qatar

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    Nice Article. Hope to read many more from you. God bless you.

  • John DSouza, Mangalore

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    Jerusha, I am not aware of America, but surely you and your article too are beautiful
    The life is a priceless gift to live an uncertain, momentary life in this attractive world
    It makes to unhide and use the wealthy treasures to enjoy life with peace and freedom
    Implementation of innovative ideas and use of talents creates a better environment to live
    The difference in colour, size, shape, time, season and gender is nature by divine wish
    It is humans to fill the gap of difference with peace, tolerance, negotiation and adjustment
    Perhaps America is the land of opportunities for individuals to achieve goals and dreams
    But India and China are huge global markets with plenty to offer and consume the most
    No individual is capable to occupy space in the world more than his body size, at a time
    Our minds can move infinite miles/hour, but physically we can make a very limited move
    Being our life is of a very short span the life achievements only can remain in history
    If we believe that humans are from Adam and Eve, where is the scope for racism and hate?
    Climate and geographical zones can change the colour of skin but not the blood colour.
    Being we are the temples of God, how can we commit suicides, murder and destroy lives?

  • Joe D'Souza, Mangalore

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    Miss Jerusha please do not call plain Americans. Call North Americans,because America is a continent and there are 2 Americas. North America and South America.
    North America includes United states of America. Many languages are spoken there due to immigration and invasion. Many Southern States were Spanish States before Spanish war and also were French spoken states such as
    Louisiana. Coco Cola AD is a opportune based advertisement. Every Country is beautiful through Nature but Mankind spoils it through greed.

  • Vijay Prabhu, Kundapur?Canada

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    Christopher Columbus, the Spanish explorer made a blatant' ignorant historical error in the 14th century, which, unfortunately has not been corrected yet. Columbus was actually intended to explore and reach India, as usual, to rob, loot, etc. India's richness in spices, gold etc. when he actually landed in America's shores. Mr. Columbus thought he landed in India, that is why he called the native Americans as native Indians, and that name has unfortunately no changed by the latter govts. , historians, etc.

  • suneetha, mangalore

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    I haven't seen the ad so I am not at a liberty to comment on it. but yes, American history is a big pot of cultural mixture. it was not found by English. or so I have read. Unless American History has changed. It was found by Christopher Columbus. and this event was after the invasion by the Norse lords. Even Christopher Columbus found that there were inhabitants residing there whom he called Indians???? So what was the Indians language??? Where does the question of English being its language come from??? yes English can be its major language. A language common for all people to understand each other. Just like Hindi and English are the official languages of India. That does not mean that I cannot say my country is beautiful in any other regional language that I want to. so is there any need for this much controversy. Yes there is a National anthem code, a national flag code for all around. and no way would i like to insult it. But the language. Let there be no dispute.

  • Mr, World

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    Dear Jerusha Sequeira, You are beautiful, forget America.

  • Rajesh, Mangalore

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    A very educative distinction made

  • Joseph, American

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    It is more complicated than a simple language issue. Coke is using an American sporting event to push a sales move targeting people that do not speak English when Americans are trying to stem the tide of rampant Illegal migration. It was a stupid fight to pick for Coke at a time when sales are on the decline.

    As for the complaint, the only thing that many people are asking is to advertise in English. The gay couples, different languages, and many hundreds of cultures are welcome in the States, otherwise.

    Funny though, people do not want to accept that many Americans have opinions which might offend them - we see the anti-American bigots insult people over a commercial where the protests involve only the usage of the English language. Intolerance for a group of people that want to speak English? Insults, bigotry, and blatant hatred fly pretty quickly from the people screaming for tolerance when faced people that disagree with them.

  • Jossie Mascarenhas, Bajpe / Dubai

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    Good article, very good subject - quite unique. Most of all, excellent language. Keep writing.

  • Matthew, Nitte

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    I fail to understand why India was dragged into the article pondering whether "America is beautiful or not" ? India has problems, big problems, and Indians readily acknowledge we have problems. But unlike America, India does not go around the world lecturing other countries on "human rights" or how "exclusive" India is, nor do we beat our breasts claiming we are the greatest. Neither do we bomb to bring "democracy" to other nations.

    As someone who has lived and worked in US extensively, American society is not a "melting pot" as it is made out to be. But the "American-ness" is a meatgrinder that blends all cultures, languages, backgrounds and distinctive features of individuals into one mainstream American narrative. India on the other hand despite the obvious challenges, strives to maintain and support the distinctiveness of each culture,language,ethnicity etc without making them all into one "sausage" .

    So in brief, yes, i disagree with the coke ad because it is a misrepresentation of what US is. Don't get me wrong, it is still a great country, but i am just not romantic enough to buy into the "diverse and distinct but one" narrative. Compare the coke ad to our 80s DD "Mile sur mera tumhara" ad, and you'll know what i mean.

  • Rita, Germany

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    We always hear from each Country ,that their Country is beautiful.Nobody is ready to say that their Country is not.when we compare our Country(India)to others,is it not beautiful?with or without any advt.It has all the natural beauty,with see hills and what else.IN some countries,they tried to make it ,in the sand .even our men and Girls are beautiful better than other countries,and important intelligent.That too Counts,not only Drinks.

  • ad, mangloor

    Mon, Feb 24 2014

    America the beautiful or America ugly or America the dirty.

    My view is different. It's all in one package.

    Its a bully nation wants to rule the world. Just consider killing people with drones. Is this beautiful ?

    BTW, they speak AMEERICAN ENGLISH and NOT English English and everything in between.
    Racism prevails even in Coke.

  • Thomas Scaria, Mangalore

    Sun, Feb 23 2014

    I have never been to America, but have worked with them. One thing, which makes America unique is that they welcome anyone from anywhere in the world to settle down in their land and given equal opportunities to work and grow together. Like in Microsoft, if an Indian can become the head of Coco-cola, it can happen only in America! That is the difference. Though there are racial issues, it is relatively less. Congrats to the ariter of this article.

  • Lynn, Florida USA

    Sun, Feb 23 2014

    You wish. We have more people coming to America for opportunity. One of the requirements of becoming a citizen is to learn English and assimilate. We are a diverse nation with a common language, English. Those who refuse to learn it have a much rougher time living here. We want everyone to succeed in America as they all have equal opportunity. That is our country's dream.

  • jimmynoronha, bellore/Lucknow

    Sun, Feb 23 2014

    Yes, America is beautiful notwithstanding the fact that it has the likes of Allen West and the likes of his ilk to air their ire and xenophobia over such a beautiful and uniting ad like that of the Coke. If only the English were to drink coke, it won’t be long before Coke would end up in ‘perdition’ and you too Mr. West to boot??

  • R.Bhandarkar, M'lore

    Sun, Feb 23 2014

    Then what say about AD's aired in India in 'English' only? Hindi
    is our 'National Language' right?
    Learn 'Tolerance' and 'Acceptance' the Indian way! It's the only solution!
    However, it's another story that you
    are looked upon as an alien when
    you speak Hindi in Tamil Nadu!!!

  • geoffrey, hat hill

    Sun, Feb 23 2014

    The day petrodollar system collapses, the so called beauty of America is likely to fade into oblivion and the proverbial American dream is sure to turn into a nightmare.

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