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Tuesday, October 28, 2003  

The blogosphere reacts to Ghettopoly

David Chang's racist board game, Ghettopoly, has garnered the attention of quite a few bloggers. Because of interest in the topic, I have decided to reprint excerpts from some of the responses. I may have more to say about Ghettopoly later, but for now, these bloggers get their say.

Dustin, of One Man's Opinion, believes my look at the topic was too narrow.

Like Mac Diva, I'm glad to see Asian-American groups speaking out and condemning the creator of Ghettopoly -- which maligns both African-Americans, in its imagery, and Asian-Americans, in linking them to the game's bigotry. However, I am disturbed by Mac Diva's encouragement of Hasbro's lawsuit, and particularly by the notion of the game's creator being "brought to heel". As with any other published material, David Chang, the mastermind behind Ghettopoly, has a right to free speech and free expression, no matter how offensive. To advocate the use of the courts to crush that expression seems to me a violation of that fundamental principle. It's an admittance of the utter failure of imagination and progressive values -- because we have been unsuccessful in destroying the demand for such racist representations, we will attempt to stem the supply by restricting what they are allowed to say.

And who will benefit from the outcome of this lawsuit? African-Americans? Hardly. Asian-Americans? Guess again. The only possible beneficiary will be Hasbro, who will use a set of laws that are antithetical to progressive values (anti-copyright laws that punish users and prevent innovation) to protect a game which is decidedly not progressive (with it's integral system of class capitalism expressed through its low-rent, slum districts -- the $12/night fleabag motels of Baltic Avenue -- linearly opposed to the glittering mansions of Park Place and Broadway). While worrying about the derogatory black imagery of Ghettopoly is commendable, what about the absent black imagery of whites-only Monopoly?

Mac Diva frames Hasbro's case as an extension of the work of civil rights groups who "lack the funds to effectively confront people who engage in appalling acts". I can virtually guarantee that Hasbro is not making this mistake -- they are interested only in protecting a trademark, and would have filed the same suit (and have, I'm sure) if the knock-off's imagery consisted solely of unicorns and fluffy kittens. This is a company that has moved virtually all of its production into Chinese sweatshops and is the target of shareholder action from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility because of its racist protrayals of American Indians -- I'm entirely sure that Hasbro is not the knight in shining armour for civil rights causes Mac Diva makes them out to be.

Centrist Rick Heller of Smart Genes gets to the meat of the matter. (Can a vegetarian say that?) He cites Chang's rationalization for Ghettopoly.

When I play with a traditional board game with my friends, it simply does not appeal to me much. To your dismay, Hip Hop Culture is what I gravitate towards, so naturally when I decided to make a game, I want to give it an urban edge. Stereotypes are everywhere, when you flip to MTV or BET you do not often see the same images and lyrics, rappers rapping about sipping on 40's, pimping hoes, smoking the chronics, slinging crack rocks, wicked jump shots.

Rick isn't convinced.

This is an example of outsider, in this case an Asian-American, wrongly presuming to be cut the same slack afforded members within the group. There is a double standard, and that's not wrong. It's one thing to be self-deprecating with regard to your ethnicity, and something else to demean others.

However, I have a feeling that even if the creator of this game had been an African-American, it would not not be considered acceptable by the black community. It's a free country, and the creator can produce this game, assuming he hasn't violated any copyright laws. But mainstream businesses should be embarrassed to be associated with it.

Civil rights activist Natalie Davis is skeptical about the 'game,' too. She believes it is bad sportmanship.

Personally, I think the game is vile, but there are a whole lot of things that are a helluva lot worse: poverty, violence; inequality; homophobic, pedophile-enabling religious leaders; the Religious Right; and the Bush Administration, for starters. So it is important to keep things in perspective here. But just because people say publicly that Ghettopoly, a game that mines poor people, drive-by shootings, and crack dealers for either humor or profit, is horrifying does not mean they are humorless. Of course, that's the primary sentiment being communicated by some folks at Blogcritics , in response to an anti-Ghettopoly post by Mac Diva of Mac-a-ro-nies. "Lighten up," they say.

Yeah, we're pissing all over their good laugh. Tough. African-American groups, Asian-American organizations, religious leaders, and plenty of people of all stripes who have good sense are sending the message that marketing stereotypes for profit may be legal, but it is not funny. Not for decent people. Nobody is talking about government banning the game or anything -- that would be wrong. But if people can be convinced not to sell it or buy it, that's the free market speaking. Conservatives should love that.

Do follow Natalie's links at All Facts and Opinions to Tim Wise's site. He has his finger on Chang's pulse.

One of the relationships I hope to make more explicit in future blogging is that between neo-Confederate type bigots and more 'subtle' sorts, including 'scientific' racists. Sometimes, a single person embodies both. Al Barger, who we last examined as a neo-Confederate sympathizer, has also considered Ghettopoly. He believes it is good, clean entertainment for Mom, Dad and the little ones.

Ghettopoly - hilarious fun for the whole family

So this Asian-American has come up with a clever little parody of the classic Monopoly game called " Ghettopoly " which features a lot of pimpin' and dope and such. Naturally, the perpetually aggrieved [moi] are, not suprisingly, aggrieved, hollering about this game promoting racism and such.

As Sgt. Hulka said to Psycho in Stripes, "Lighten up, Francis."

Naturally Hasbro doesn't appreciate the association and they're suing. I can understand their position, but Ghettopoly can reasonably be seen as a legitimate parody of this most iconic American game, and how those capitalist ideas play out in the cheap seats.

There's more than one way to take something like this Ghettopoly. Some professionally agitated black folk [the NAACP] will insist on taking it as belittling your race, as if the intent was to foment hate against black folk. It's part of the conspiracy to repress the colored races.

That likely is not the intent of the creator, nor how it will mostly be taken. A white person who really dislikes black people as a group would be unlikely to be interested in this game. I would guess that in fact black folk will be the top market.

I've read more opinions about Ghettopoly, but believe these to be pretty representative. If you want to know the blogger's thoughts more fully, visit his or her weblog via the links included.

7:30 PM