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Albany Legal Blog

Coke Super Bowl Ad “America Is Beautiful” : Stunned by the Intolerance and Bigotry

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2014 | Immigration


I was actually stunned Monday morning, the morning after the Super Bowl, not because the Broncos had been blown out by the Seahawks, but because of the unbelievable reaction to Coca-Cola’s 60 second Super Bowl advertisement. And when I say stunned, I mean I was really stunned.

Last night my wife was reading to me some of the posts that were showing up on YouTube, right below the link to Coke’s advertisement.  As I type this blog, 9455 comments have been posted, and that number is increasing every time I check it.  I don’t spend a lot of time online, and virtually no time on social media sites, but I am told this is a ridiculously high number of comments.  I thought about giving some examples here, but honestly, I can’t even dignify any of them by re-posting them.

Are we not a nation of immigrants?  Are we not a melting pot?  Was the Super Bowl not played just a few miles south of the largest melting pot in the world?  Has anyone taken a walk and looked around Herald Square recently (where ESPN set up camp just outside of MACY’s for the week before the Super Bowl)?  Has anyone looked at the faces of the thousands of people that walk around Time Square every day (which also happened to be right in the middle of Super Bowl Boulevard)?  Isn’t Ellis Island, right in New York harbor, where many of our grandparents landed when they came to America, very likely speaking languages other than English?

I’m quite sure that many of the people who posted their slurs on YouTube don’t even know that our own government allows some immigrants to pass a test to become a U.S. citizen without even speaking a word of English.  That said, it does not mean the immigrants don’t wish to learn or become proficient in English.  Indeed, the opposite is true.  According to the Pew Hispanic Forum, the development of English language proficiency among non-English speaking immigrants today mirrors that of 19th and early 20th century, when our ancestors of Italian, German, and Eastern European decent came to America (many through Ellis Island).  While first generation, non-English speaking immigrants predictably had lower rates of English proficiency than native speakers, 91 percent of second generation immigrants are fluent or near fluent English speakers.  And by the time we get to the third generation, that number goes up to 97 percent!

I’ve spent the last year writing about the virtues of immigration in general, and the positive outcomes that will result if Congress is able to pass, and the President actually signs, legislation dealing with Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“CIR”).  Last July the U.S. Senate passed the Gang of Eight’s “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”  Finally, last week, in the wake of the President’s State of the Union Address, House Republicans released their standards for immigration reform. The standards include enforcement, reforming the legal immigration system, and addressing the undocumented immigrant population.  And for those of you who think that all immigrants should speak English, you’ll be pleased to know that the House Republicans’ standards for immigration reform includes a requirement that the path to legalization include a requirement that illegal immigrants “develop proficiency in English and American civics” as a pre-condition to becoming legalized. (And that we need CIR to fix our broken immigration system.)

I read a great piece in Forbes about Coca-Cola’s advertisement.  Writes Tom Watson, “Coca-Cola’s … America, The Beautiful Super Bowl ad was among the most talked about spots of the otherwise disappointing (unless you’re a Seahawks fan) contest – and it was an ad with a clear purpose. Yet it was not in any way, explicitly political. The ad illustrated the stakes of immigration reform and took pride the impact of immigration on U.S. culture.”

We are a nation born of immigrants.  I would also remind people that immigrants have a long and proud tradition of serving in the U.S. military, and that there are thousands of men and women in uniform today who were not born in the United States and who are willing to sacrifice everything for our country.  Let’s show them, their parents, their brothers and sisters, their children, and their friends and neighbors, some respect.