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Coke uproar says post-racial U.S. a lie

Coke ad backlash shows U.S. not yet racially equal (credit: Joanne Lo/) Coke ad backlash shows U.S. not yet racially equal (credit: Joanne Lo/)
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One of the most talked-about commercials from this year’s Super Bowl was not a comedic one from Budweiser or Geico, but what was meant to be a moving and inspiring video from Coca-Cola. The company's advertisement depicted Americans of various ethnic backgrounds singing "America the Beautiful” in seven foreign languages. While many people saw the commercial as representative of the diversity and heart of America, many were outraged by the idea of it.

Following the airing of the commercial, hashtags such as #boycottcoke and #f***coke quickly made it to the top of Twitter’s trending list. Critics of the commercial expressed their dissatisfaction with Coca-Cola in statements such as one Twitter user's prominent comment “Nice to see that coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist's language. Way to go coke. You can leave America.” Traditionalists argue that true Americans speak English.

It is sickening that people try to take a message of hatred out of a commercial with a message of unity. After all, almost all Americans descend from people that were once immigrants of a foreign country.

Many conservatives, such as former congressman Allen West (R-Fla.), have expressed their dismay at the commercial. In a blog post on his website, West described Coca-Cola as a "company as American as they come" and stated that this “truly disturbing commercial” was a sign that "we are on the road to perdition."

What is scary is that the West actually believes that increased diversity and acceptance of others is leading America to some form of eternal punishment. By making such a statement, he is violating the principles of his own Christian religion and insulting the reputation of those that are truly religious by those principles.

The controversy caused by this commercial is completely ridiculous. Coca-Cola's decision to air the commercial was a logical one, as they have recently received criticism for being a major sponsor of this year’s Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, a nation that recently legislated strong anti-gay laws. Coca-Cola's commercial, with its inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds, as well as the first gay couple to be shown in a Super Bowl commercial, showed that the company does not support discrimination against any culture or lifestyle.

Additionally, critics of this commercial are wrong to claim that English is the official language of the United States. Yes, English dominates all industry and media in America. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 60 million people in the United States speak a language other than English at home, and 7 percent exclusively speak a language other than English.

Does the fact that this 7 percent does not speak English make them less American than you or I? America does not have a universal culture, but an array of cultures from around the world. This array of cultures is what makes our nation different. When conservatives associated the foreign languages spoken by the people in this commercial with illegal immigration and terrorism, they essentially insulted all members of cultural communities, such as Chinatowns, Germantowns, and countless others. These communities embody the heritage of the people living in them, and how are they any less American than the small homogeneous communities of Caucasians or African-Americans speaking English? America is not a Caucasian community, nor is it only a Chinatown or Germantown. America is a melting pot.

Over the past century, America has made extensive progress in civil rights and equality. However, the fact that many still associate a single language with the nation shows that there is progress still to be made and that many are reluctant to change. Perhaps if Coca-Cola airs the same commercial in 20 years, people will simply see it as another ordinary, uncontroversial commercial, or better yet, as an accurate representation of this nation.