Opinion: America’s new look – 50 shades of human

Updated 1:58 p.m. with infographic link at end

NORWALK, Conn. – Just for the record, let me state up front that I am one of those old white guys people talk about when they need to describe, in a nutshell, what is wrong with the country.

The complaints? Old white guys rule. Old white guys write the TV shows and movies, the books and therefore control pop culture. Old white guys are mayors and congressmen. Old white guys are the corporate chiefs, the bankers, the movers and the shakers.

Well, OK. I am none of the above except an old white guy, and I’m not really all that, either. Not totally. Not OLD old. And my family tree includes – and I expect a letter from former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown about this – a member of the Cherokee tribe from North Carolina.

Now I know lots of old white people say they are part Cherokee – or part some other American Indian – and no, I have no proof. Apparently so many people wanted to claim heritage that the Cherokee have put in place (and have had it in place for some time) a very difficult set of standards of proof. Some of the records needed simply do not exist anymore.

I do know that my father’s father, a member of a wealthy branch of the non-Cherokee family, married my grandmother against said rich white family’s wishes, and wound up abandoning her a few years later with three preschool kids rather than be disinherited by the rich folks for marrying a person of mixed racial heritage.

So my father, who would identify as a white guy all his life, grew up poor, and in a home for boys for several years because his mom – my grandmother, the only natural grandparent I ever knew – could not work and take care of two little girls and a rambunctious young boy. He went to the Dickensian home that was part orphanage, where Christmas meant new toothbrush, a comb and, if you were lucky, an orange, and where discipline might include waking up several minutes later on the floor against a wall.

So why all this information? It has something to do with the rising tide of racial division in Norwalk, and in the United States. And that has a lot to do with the rising tide of racial minorities who, in short order, will relegate old white guys – and old white women, and young white people of all genders – to minority status. That scares the pants off of white people, who cannot conceive of being, well, on the other side of the demographic fence. And, hey, just in case you didn’t read the literature, the nation put a non-white guy in charge of the country, and, well, all hell broke loose, not the least of which was a significant number of people trying – and they continue to try – to de-legitimize him.

But people, we have become a nation of 50 shades of humans — not blacks, whites, browns, yellows and reds, just humans. Hitler would be appalled. We should be thrilled.

Me? I get it. I grew up in Hyannis Port, after all, where blacks, Latinos and Jewish people were as scarce as unanimity in the Norwalk Democratic Party. It wasn’t even the rich part of Hyannis Port. It was, befitting our status as a lower middle income, blue collar family, the slums of Hyannis Port, which consisted of our house.

It was the ‘50s (I was born in 1953) and race relations were not something that were talked about. White people where I lived – and I include my family in this – avoided blacks and Latinos. I was told by a brother that should I be walking on the street with a black person coming toward me, I should cross the street.

That is how a lot of us old white guys grew up. It took me years to shake it, and even then I found it nerve-wracking when, as the 30-something publisher of New England Boxing Monthly, I found myself late one night after a fight card in Boston sitting in a bar in the tough Roxbury section, the only white face in the place, save for the owner.

I guess that is the way a lot of my fellow old white people are feeling these days, like we are the ones who are out-numbered, and that somehow makes us unsafe. Because, after all, look what happened to “them” when WE were in charge.

And ain’t karma just grand?

What goes around comes around, except from where I sit, it is my guess that the blacks and Latinos will not do to us what we did to them. And really, could people with a little more pigment really do any worse than the old white guys? Take a stroll through history – not just American history, but Europe, too. Wars, diseases, entire societies crashing. Look what our ancestors did here (OK, this is my inner repressed Cherokee talking), stealing the land, spreading disease, introducing the native people to alcohol, killing them and confining the rest to reservations, killing the animals, clear-cutting land, polluting the water …

We’ve had our successes, too. We put people on the moon. We invented stuff. We created the Internet. We created wealth beyond what anyone could ever need, we…

Oh, right, that is a huge part of the problem. Something about 1 percent, 2 percent. Something about a relative handful of people – a huge proportion of whom are old white guys – having a hugely disproportionate amount of the wealth while a significant number of the rest just try to get by day to day.

Those people believe the deck has been stacked and, as they gain political clout through numbers, they will have their chance to show us how they think it should be done.

My bet is they will do a better job, that they will rebuild a nation torn asunder by hate and greed and fear, that they will narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

But first, a little advice from an old white guy who has watched white people become increasingly polarized (Republicans vs. Democrats, Tea Party vs. everybody) – stop fighting amongst yourselves.

Hear that Norwalk minorities? Get a grip. You, and we, are all in this together. We, the old white guys, are turning over the car keys, albeit slowly, and reluctantly. We need you to drive carefully, responsibly. Keep fighting over who drives, over which road to take, and we could all find ourselves overturned in a ditch.

Additional reading:

Infographic on Multi-Racial and Ethnic Shift

Could America Become Mississippi?

America’s Uneasy ‘Browning’


(Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a transformational piece of legislation that began a long, and some would say ongoing, march to equality for minorities in America. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed, then the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Taken together, the laws were intended to make illegal discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin)


15 responses to “Opinion: America’s new look – 50 shades of human”

  1. Rod Lopez-Fabrega


  2. Oldtimer

    Well said.

  3. Oldtimer

    Until we start to focus on our shared interests and stop being fixated on out differences, there will be turmoil, much as in any large family. We raised a large family and know about turmoil while the next generation is growing up. Our children are now adults and we are very proud of how they turned out. They still do not agree on everything, but they get along.
    We, as a nation, have seen enormous progress over the last half century in attitudes and opportunity. We hope our children will be able someday to say the same thing. We will never all totally agree and will continue to argue and elect people with differing points of view, but, unless we move a long way backward, there is hope for us.

  4. Sara Sikes

    Great message and hope somebody is paying attention.

  5. EastNorwalkChick

    Excellent piece!!!

  6. LWitherspoon

    Well said Mark. I too am troubled by the increasing frequency of bickering between so-called community leaders. What kind of example does it set when leaders of the African-American community and leaders of the Latino community can’t seem to get along? We have seen it in Common Council meetings and even on these pages, with SoNoCC, Travis Simms, and their respective partisans going at each other in a most unseemly way. It’s entertaining to those who don’t ever want any money spent on anti-poverty efforts, but everyone else is mainly embarrassed for the parties involved.
    One wonders what efforts Mayor Rilling has made towards peace and even collaboration between Mr. Simms and the SoNo Community Center. All are members of Rilling’s party. A collaboration between them would be an impressive show of leadership by the Mayor, who by the way couldn’t say enough about respect and civility last November. Along with the Council, Mayor Rilling wields the power of the purse and as such he can call everyone into a room and demand that they work together, or nobody gets anything in terms of City funding. Will he?

  7. Ultimate Snow Job

    “We, the old white guys, are turning over the car keys.” Oh really? Isn’t that so nice and so white of you. Feel like just came offa dem cotton fields a pickn for ya all, to a voten for ya all. Turning over the keys? To what? A clunker gas guzzler that drinks fuel like a salty seamen on leave at a sleazy bar drinking Kentucky bourbon? Keys to an oil burning heap with two flat tires and two bald tires with brakes that stop in a couple of blocks and a battery that only cranks every other November? That costs more to insure than any job pays? Wreck the thing than gift it to us and than charge it off your taxes. Yes indeed, how white of you old school boys sippin them spiked slurpees at the 7/11. Newsflash there editor, your are not in the drivers seat. Much, much richer, white guys and brown guys, than you, are. The trick has been to make you think you are. You are also, now, part of a minority. The impoverished and vanishing middle class of yes, white folks. The point, you rode all around the mountain and half the country to make is valid, as valid as it was some 6 odd decades long, long ago. WestBoro Baptist Church and Tea patier stunts are not black and white reels from 55′ or even 65′. And yes, you are lilly white and old, old school. Whether you choose to accept it or not.. As, Black Panther Edldridge Cleaver coined the phrase, in a 1968 speech, originally written by ad man Charles Rosner, for a commercial but is predated by uncredited African verse of simmilar, “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” Some things change, some things just appear to change but never really do.. Mostly things stay the same. That said, one point needs to be crystal clear. Who benefits from division? Do minorities? Democrats? Republicans? Independents? The disenfranchised? You? Me? Us? This is hard ball gamesmanship folks. There are enemies, of our nation, both domestically and internationally that benefit, – (profit), enormously by division in a democracy, even a significantly corrupt one as ours.. Much of what everyone is being exposed to, in what is known as main stream media is completely monitored and much is staged. Don’t know how Brian Williams lives with himself some days. He probably doesn’t either until he sees the check. In war time its called propaganda. The politically correct terms currently are “campaigns” and “talking points” aka subliminal messages. Until we come together and ammend our Constitution to take the profit out of politics and make corruption truly accountable, in all honesty, its going to be a long rough, possibly generational, journey. But a journey that must be taken or all the sacrifices made, all the blood and treasure lost, will be for naught. Do we all, not owe it to our children and grandchildren and our ancestors to step up, realise we all sink or float together and pull together in one direction and move the damn ball down the field, already? Yeah, we went to the moon and drove around did some hole shots on moon dust but in many ways we have even worse poverty and division now than we did when we tooted our lunar landing vehicle horn and planted a flag on another planet. Yep its official, we own the moon. Whether we, being, as it is known today, the United States of America can sustain and survive or itself will repeat history and fracture, well its up to us. Isn’t it? All of us. You and you and you reading this and you and me posting. Reading the nasty vitriol all over social media and so called, news sites, seeing the violence escalating day in and day out, domestically and abroad, watching the slow motion death of journalism, as we knew and trusted it, seeing the big bad boys robbing everyone else penny less and getting away with it over and over and even getting tax rebates, seeing a non exsistent mental health system that now pretty much predates the civil war, where we just imprison the mentally ill, the illiterate, the homeless, the impoverished, at the bottom of the food chain, yes, there is much, much work to be done. So if you haven’t been on the grid, aka in the loop,, “Hear ye Hear ye Hear ye, all; Black, brown, dark, purple, chartreuse, and yes white included; the USSC clearly, affirms, twice now, no money equals no power, regardless of color of skin, gender or religion. Tax deductible, but of course.. Are we all that gullible? That easily manipulated and controlled? It’s our watch…

  8. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    U.S.B. = I think you entirely missed Mark’s point. However, I love your imagery–especially the part about the battery that cranks over every November.

  9. EastNorwalkChick

    Rod Lopez-Fabrega- Ultimate Snow Job may have slightly missed Mark’s point, but he too has a very good one….”Who benefits from division?”….sometimes I swear that this division has been purposely created by the powers that be. It is the shiny thing that they dangle in front of us so that we look in that direction and not where we should be looking….which is at them and the policies, (that benefit a certain few), that they slip by us time and time again.
    We, the average citizen, have been looking at the magician’s hand and not what’s going on behind him….Ultimate Snow Job is right, until we take money out of our politics, make it more transparent, we will continue to loose our voice when it comes to running our towns, our cities, our State and yes, our Country.
    For now we have our votes, but for how long?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @EastNorwalk Chick

      I actually agree with you. I do appreciate Rod rising to my defense, but, aside from some soapboxing at the top of the comment (and he who soapboxes for a living — of sorts — can never complain about being on the receiving end), I thought the comment was exceptionally well written and thought-provoking. Yes, he missed my point at the top — that happens — but the last 45 percent of the comment was spot on in my opinion.

  10. EastNorwalkChick

    Mark, agree with you on Ultimate Snow Jobs post, very well written and very, very thought provoking. This is something that I think about on a daily basis, we are being baffled by BS from the MSM and political parties, and saddens me that more don’t see it.
    Our lives have been whittled down to daily talking points and whoever screams the loudest, whether it be true or not, is where our attention goes.
    We have been hoodwinked into believing that what “they”, our politicians, are doing for us is in our best interest.
    One look at our tax policy clearly shows that that is not the case….he who has the most money has the most power in our society, thus the most influence on legislation.
    So it is in their best interest to continue to dangle that shiny thing to get us to focus our attention elsewhere, to have us continue to fight amongst ourselves while they slowly decimate our power and our voices.

  11. EastNorwalkChick

    BTW, your and others opinion pieces, along with the many reply posts, is why I read NON, it’s nice to be able to get away from the daily talking points ad nauseum to see what is really in people’s hearts and minds….whether I agree or not, we are all in this thing called “democracy” together.

    1. Mark Chapman


      Thank you so much. I used to take umbrage at denigrating remarks about the mainstream media. After all, much of my adult life has been spent drawing paychecks from the MSM. But I have watched the institution that we all once were dependent upon for information to help us form our opinions go spiraling down the drain for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the pursuit of corporate profits and a fundamental lack of understanding of the way people’s lives have evolved along with technology and the changing economic and social climate.

      That is what we love about what we are doing. It is scary — the financial end of it — but to be free of the constraints of corporate ownership, to be free to pursue journalism that contributes to society and apply the lessons learned from decades of experience (as opposed to the way the chains hire those with little experience to keep the payroll down) is a joy in keeping with with the remaining vestiges of a ’60s idealism that, honestly, I didn;t realize I had until sometime int he ’70s!

  12. EveT

    The imagery of UltimateSnowJob’s comment is offensive. I get the point: run-of-the-mill old white guys are made to think they hold the keys but it is actually a small bunch of slightly less old, white, extremely rich guys in the driver’s seat. That message could have been conveyed with much less offensive vocabulary.

  13. Suzanne

    I think that these comments need to be taken from the theoretical and applied to the place where we can apply it best: Norwalk. Quite a few negative comments/arguments end up in Norwalk governmental process, especially with public comments or a member of a committee in the political minority. Perhaps it is time for an “all inclusive” handbook on how to speak and act respectfully to one another. Starting at the top of City Government.

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