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Friday, October 24, 2003  

'Ghettopoly' reveals Asian immigrant's bigotry

Ghettopoly, the board game created by an Asian-American to mock African-Americans, is facing a lawsuit filed by established game maker Hasbro. Because of its association with the venerable Monopoly, Hasbro asserts its reputation is being injured by a similarly named game that celebrates bigotry. Salon fills us in.

The company that makes the Monopoly board game has sued the man who created "Ghettopoly" -- a knockoff featuring "playas" who build crack houses on Cheap Trick Avenue instead of hotels on Boardwalk.

The lawsuit by Hasbro Inc. seeks unspecified damages from David Chang, alleging he violated Hasbro's trademarks and copyrights and created "irreparable injury" to Hasbro's reputation. It also wants the court to order Chang to stop producing and selling Ghettopoly.

"While the genuine Monopoly game has become a wholesome and respected American icon ... the Ghettopoly knockoff has generated a firestorm of controversy for its highly offensive, racist content," said the filing Tuesday in Providence federal court.

Ghettopoly mimics Monopoly, except game pieces include a gun and marijuana leaf. In place of the "Mr. Monopoly" logo of a man with his arms outstretched, Ghettopoly uses a caricature of a black man holding a submachine gun and bottle of malt liquor.

The game drew outrage from minority leaders this month after it began selling at Urban Outfitters stores. The retail chain stopped its sales of the game, and Yahoo! and eBay notified Chang they would halt online sales.

David Chang says he does not see anything insulting about the game, which includes 'careers' such as armed robber and pimp. His website describes what Chang apparently believes are the main activities of black people.

Buying stolen properties, pimpin hoes, building crack houses and projects, paying protection fees and getting car jacked are some of the elements of the game. Not dope enough? ... If you don't have the money that you owe to the loan shark you might just land yourself in da Emergency Room.

Interestingly, there is no evidence Chang has ever been exposed to black American culture beyond the stereotypes he is promoting.

Chang, who lives in western Pennsylvania, has no firsthand knowledge of the ghetto. He and his family moved to the United States from Taiwan when he was 8. He went to a private high school and graduated from the University of Rochester in New York state with degrees in economics and psychology.

Perhaps that is why Chang depicts Martin Luther King, Jr., groping his genitals and saying "I've got an itch."

I try to respect the rights of everyone, but must admit that at times I am taken back by the racist attitudes of a significant share of Asian immigrants. They often seem totally unaware of the history of black and Hispanic Americans, including the fact that segregation laws applied to Asians as well as black, red and brown people. But for the sacrifices African-Americans made during the civil rights movement, David Chang, Michelle Malkin and Dinesh d'Souza would not be enjoying the freedoms they take for granted. Admittedly, people of this sort often strike me as more pathetic than anything else. When I peruse the worship of white people by people of color at sites such as Gene Expression, I mainly see very sick minds. However, I am disinclined to ignore such behavior because I believe doing so encourages more of it.

National Asian-American organizations have made it painstakingly clear they do not support the message Chang sends with Ghettopoly.

WASHINGTON, DC (October 9, 2003) -- The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC), the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today blasted the board game "Ghettopoly" by David Chang and Ghettopoly.com and its distribution by Urban Outfitters, saying that the recently released game's use of racist wordplay, caricatures and stereotypes of African-Americans is "offensive, demeaning and degrading."

A takeoff on the classic Parker Brothers "Monopoly" game, "Ghettopoly" enables "playas" to buy chop-shop properties and chicken and rib establishments while building "crack houses" and projects. Among the game's racist contents are stereotypical images of Black people, who are shown as minstrel-like pimps, prostitutes and hustlers. In "Ghettopoly," the bank is renamed "Da Loan Shark." Contestants must avoid being shot or drug addicted, though getting "yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack" earns $50 from other players. Other minorities, including Hispanics and Jews, are stereotyped and caricatured as well.

"David Chang, the creator of the game, was reported saying that Ghettopoly is only a game, but in fact, it is a flashpoint for increased racial tensions among communities of color," said Raymond Wong, OCA National President.

"It is completely inappropriate for Chang and Urban Outfitters to profiteer on damaging negative racial stereotypes," said Christine Chen, OCA Executive Director.

OCA calls on all concerned individuals to contact Richard Hayne, the Chairman and President of Urban Outfitters and David Chang, President and Owner of Ghettopoly.com to immediately cease production of Ghettopoly and pull the game from store shelves.

An Asian-American Congressman has also denounced Chang.

Congressman Mike Honda (D - San Jose) condemned Urban Outfitters for selling the racist board game "Ghettopoly," and demanded that the company pull the product from its shelves. Honda's office was notified that radio personality Tarsha Nicole Jones (Jonesy), of 103.9 FM in Philadelphia, in turn taunted David Chang and Asian Americans by proposing the creation of a game called "Chinkopoly," and urged listeners to call-in with denigrating names for properties in such a game.

"Instead of bringing people together in laughter, this board game has caused pain and outrage. I urge Mr. Chang to stop marketing 'Ghettopoly' and stop production on the complete line of games that is insensitive, harmful, and in bad taste," said Rep. Honda. "It is important that as our communities find out about this offensive issue, and we address it, that we come together and engage in intelligent dialogue. There is no excuse for further inciting groups against each other -- either out of ignorance, or anger."

I am heartened by this responsible leadership from Asian-Americans who understand the pain racist abuse causes its targets and the poison it infuses into society as a whole. Perhaps their message of tolerance will trickle down to Asian-American immigrants who have unthinkingly adopted the bigoted beliefs of many white Americans.

I also welcome Hasbro's lawsuit. Most civil rights groups lack the funds to effectively confront people who engage in appalling acts such as Chang. However, Hasbro has the deep pockets to bring him to heel. Before the process is over, I will not be surprised if Chang has disgorged every cent he made from Ghettopoly. If legal fees don't bankrupt him, a judgment against him likely will.

4:57 PM