Super Bowl commercial sparks controversy

Haley Samsel, Featured Columnist

No one needs to be reminded that the Super Bowl was last Sunday. No one needs to hear the final score again, especially fans of the Denver Broncos. The game and most of the festivities held before and after its conclusion usually speak for themselves. A controversial 60 second advertisement by Coca-Cola aired during the game changed that, if only for a few moments.

The commercial, which featured a rendition of “America the Beautiful” sung in different languages, prompted Facebook and Twitter users to tag status updates and tweets with hashtags like “#BoycottCoke” and “#CokeSucks.” The basis of most arguments against the advertisement were that the song and anthems like it should only be sung in English, the language the songs were originally written in and the alleged “national language” of the U.S. In some cases, these statements gave way to straight-forward racism, with one user tweeting, “Thanks for choosing Spanish over English. We are in America, not Mexico.” Another user posted, “Foreigners don’t belong in America – if you don’t speak English, get out,” followed by, “I hate liberals, gays and illegals. I’m sorry you can’t handle my opinions.”

I watched Super Bowl XLVIII with my best friend and her family as we celebrated her upcoming birthday. Her parents and the majority of her family emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines years ago, hoping to connect with family members and find better opportunities than those offered in their home country. At the party, there were nachos and gummy candy alongside traditional Filipino dishes like pancit and lechon. As usual, I was the only non-Filipino guest in attendance – not that I minded.

I was out of the room, probably staking out the nacho bar, when the Coca-Cola commercial was aired. I heard cheers coming from the other room and I rushed in to ask what all the ruckus was about. “My family was cheering because they sang a line in Tagalog,” she said. Her family was proud that their language and their culture merited a mention in a Super Bowl commercial – in a song celebrating America.

I didn’t think anything of it until I got home and saw that many Americans were arguing against the commercial and the company that created it. While the social-media fueled movement to “boycott Coke” quickly suffered widespread backlash from other users, the overwhelming amount of people who were offended by hearing “America the Beautiful” in a language other than English speaks volumes.

Every once in a while, a political analyst or a magazine poses the question – “Is America a post-racial society?” They ask, “Does race still affect our daily lives? Is there still a debate?” And every time, the question is answered by outcries against the diversification of America – events like Nina Davuluri becoming the first Indian-American to win Miss America, controversies like the one surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, and now the “boycott” of an American company that produced a commercial celebrating what truly makes America beautiful.

In a post-racial society, we wouldn’t still be having conversations like this. I wouldn’t be writing a column surrounding a controversy about which language an American song should be sung in. This is our America – full of hypocrisies and hidden meanings along with beauty and backyard barbeques. Take it or leave it.