06/05/2012 09:40 am ET Updated Aug 05, 2012

Let's Be Honest, Now

This editorial answers the question, "What is the American Experience?" It is part of a series from the junior AP Language and Composition classes at Oakton High School in Northern Virginia, and was selected by a panel of student judges for publication on HuffPost Teen.

Ethnocentrism (n): characterized by or based on the attitude that one's own group is superior.

Look around the neighborhood -- a quick scan of the eye will give anyone a strong sense of cultural variety that dominates the United States. The old terminology "melting pot" supposedly represents this multicultural society, but the question at hand is, "Did the melting pot really ever mix the different people?" Instead, I would suggest that today's melting pot is frozen into clumps of clay balls with different colors unable to mix into one another. Such disunity is the result of ethnocentrism.

This trend of ethnocentrism traces back to colonial times when new immigrants suffered, oddly enough, ethnocentrism from the "first" immigrants who came to America. Among the first European immigrants who sought religious freedom in the land of opportunity, the most famous and dominant were the Protestants and Catholics. Both Protestants and Catholics had pride in their dominant religion, have no doubt about it. As a result, they persecuted the less dominant religious group, Quakers. The Quakers underwent countless acts of oppression, such as imprisonment and rejection; however, they never considered themselves less important than the other two religions. This not only asserted American reluctance in accepting aliens into society, but also created dogmatic boundaries for foreigners. To newly arrived immigrants who expected freedom in the land of opportunity, the American experience of ethnocentrism was a cultural shock.

Since then, it is no exaggeration to say we Americans were bound to judge everyone and everything with ethnocentric prejudice and make ourselves sound foolishly ironic when putting the ideas of multiculturalism on the table.

The Americans are important, and so are the Taiwanese, the Hispanic, the Pakistani and the Ethiopian. It is indisputable that each culture that wants to highlight their own distinctive color also does not want their culture to be criticized by anyone. Therefore each individual culture puts emphasis on theirs rather than others.

For instance, Korean-Americans and Japanese-Americans have a sense of enmity towards each other, (Yes, even in the U.S), due to historical conflicts the two have had to face. Ask any Japanese or Korean people around about this issue, and some will get extremely heated to insult the other country about their culture, political disorganization, and size of country: Practically any incident malleable of falsifying will become a criticism. Korean-Americans put forward genuine integrity and nonviolence that their ancestors valued, and think that Japanese-Americans lack these moral characteristics. On the other hand, the Japanese-Americans have pride over their strong economy and technological innovations, which they think outscores that of the Korean-Americans. Simply, the two are judging each other based on each country's own cultural values and consider their own culture to be the better one. They are unable to see the positive aspects of each other due to the strong ethnocentric bias. I can guarantee that there are many, if not too many, tensions like this present among different cultures in United States.

Ethnocentrism happens around high school also. The president of the Indian Club at one high school claims that although ethnic-based clubs cannot be limited to certain group of race, no one besides the corresponding ethnicity is "allowed" to be a member of the club. I personally come from a completely different background from India. I believe in Christianity and love eating all different kinds of meat, but at the same time I love Indian food, clothing and styles. India has been my number-one country I dream of visiting when I grow up. Yet I still feel uncomfortable going to the Indian Club because I am afraid to hear ethnocentric judgments from people inside and outside of the club. Like the Indian Club, there are groups of all different countries out there. These ethnic-based clubs do create unity within the ethnic group, but they also disjointment among America as a whole. Thus, such disunity causes American ethnocentrism.

One cannot make certain judgments, as Immanuel Kant says. Now, America must first rid ethnocentrism that surrounds its innate consciousness and start integrating like Cherng, the founder of a fusion restaurant Panda Express, who tried his best to integrate Chinese food with "deep-fried South and steak-loving Big Sky country... Montana."