The Super Bowl failed to generate much conflict, but Coca Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” advertisement is stirring generous gulps of internet angst. At the heart of the controversy is this complex question: 1) Was Coca Cola celebrating diversity by having “America the Beautiful” sung in a multitude of languages or is the iconic brand instead suggesting that we should become a nation segregated by language?
Coca Cola could easily have sent a powerful message of unity by having all of the singers come together at the end of the commercial and sing the last few phrases together in English. Such a commercial would have sent a powerful message that America celebrates diversity, honors multilingual citizens and welcomes immigrants from all over the world to join in becoming part of a nation that shares important common bonds.
I suspect that most but not all of today’s trauma could have been avoided had the producers not worried about offending people who believe it’s good to create new communities segregated by race, religion and language. Suggesting that people who move to the United States should learn English over time is racist to some academic elites and particularly to self-interested politicians who see personal gain in dividing America along language lines. It’s possible that the ad’s producers worried that having everyone sing in English at the end would have been taken as a slap against those in the United States illegally, because legal immigrants are required to learn English as a condition of citizenship. Whatever the reason, Coca Cola missed an opportunity to create a point of unity. If their intent was to generate controversy, they have succeeded.
My first two novels — Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041 — tell stories of what awaits if we allow ourselves to be re-segregated by race, religion, class or language. We should welcome voices in every language to America. But we should also want to welcome immigrants into a nation where we can speak together and develop a united direction, rather than further segregation.