By Chris B. Bennett
Special to the NNPA from The Seattle Medium
Ghettopoly – a racially insensitive game modeled after the popular monopoly board game – is stirring up controversy once again. The game, which uses stereotypes often related to African Americans as the butt of its humor, was removed from the shelves from Urban Outfitters in 2003 after a nationwide protest by the NAACP that ultimately led to the game being barred from sale in the United States after Hasbro, makers of the game monopoly, sued the inventor of the game, David Chang, for copyright infringement.
According to Kathy Carpano, a spokesperson for Hasbro, “the company was successful in obtaining a default judgment against Mr. Chang and in June of 2006, the Court issued a permanent injunction against the Ghettopoly game and Hasbro was awarded both damages and costs.”
However, despite the permanent injunction, the game, which features a pimp, a hoe, a 40-ounce bottle, a machine gun (oozie), a marijuana leaf, a basketball and a piece of crack as game pieces, is once again available for sale — most notably through Seattle-based, online retail giant Amazon at a premium price of $114.99.
The game’s official website automatically re-directs visitors to the page where the product is sold on Amazon’s website.
According to a domain registration search, the domain is registered under Ghetto Poly Inc. The domain registration was last updated in August 2012, and lists Chang as both the administrative and technical contact.
In a 2003 interview with The Seattle Medium, Chang, who emigrated at age eight from Taiwan with his family, said he views the game as humorous and not degrading.
“Ghettopoly is controversial because its both fun and real life,” Chang told The Medium. “The graphics on the board depict every race in the country and both genders. It draws on stereotypes not as a means to degrade, but as a medium to bring together in laughter. If we can’t laugh at ourselves and how we each utilize the various stereotypes, then we’ll continue to live in blame and bitterness.”
According to a press release promoting the game, Chang did his market research by watching MTV and studying the lyrics of rap and hip-hop music, and video games provided him insight into the culture of the ghetto allowing him to come up with the names of the properties of the game in just a few hours.
Chang doesn’t feel that the game depicts any single group, rather that it pokes fun at everything associated with the ghetto.
“The playing of the game is not to offend people, that’s not my intention,” stated Chang. “It’s a satire. If they can’t see that there is nothing I can do about that. I’m not here to convince them otherwise.”
However, many African American leaders found the game to be offensive, as it allows players to buy crack houses and projects instead of houses and hotels. Property names include: Ray Ray’s Chicken and Ribs, Harlem, Busta Rap Recording, Malcolm X Ave., Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Hernando’s Chop Shop. In addition, instead of having railroads like the original monopoly game, players can purchase liquor stores. One of the Ghetto Stash cards (equivalent to Monopoly’s Community Chest cards) reads: “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50 from each player.”
Carl Mack, former president of the Seattle/King County NAACP, did not find the game funny or amusing.
“Everything about the game is degrading,” said Mack during an interview with The Medium in 2003. “It promotes every insensitive and racial stereotype that America has been in the forefront of creating with Black folks.”
Mack and a former Seattle/King County NAACP member, Eric Dawson, were the catalyst of the 2003 nationwide protest of the game when they went into the Downtown Seattle Urban Outfitters store and demanded that they game be taken off the shelf.
The recent discovery that the game is once again available for sale has many in the African American community questioning the availability of the game through a retailer like Amazon.
The Medium contacted Amazon regarding the sale of the game on their website. According to Amazon’s website, ‘listings for items that Amazon deems offensive are prohibited on Amazon.com. Amazon reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of listings on its site, and remove any listing at any time.’ Examples of prohibited listings include, ‘Products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.’
When asked by The Medium, if this game [Ghettopoly] would fall under this category? And If so, why is it allowed to be sold on amazon.com. Amazon responded by saying, “Amazon will not be releasing comment.”
“All that this is, is another example of a company that is willing to make money off of a product regardless of the racial indignity or racial insensitivity of that product,” said Mack of Amazon’s response. “Amazon is just as guilty as he is [David Chang]. If they know about it and don’t do a thing about it then they are just as racially insensitive as this guy, David Chang, is.”
“Here is their policy about racially insensitive material,” continued Mack. “Given their policy, they still don’t appear to have a problem with selling this [game]. In our minds they don’t value diversity, and they certainly don’t value the dignity of Black folks as clients.”
As of press time, six days after being contacted, the game is still available through Amazon’s website.
“It appears to me that they [Amazon] will not do the right thing until they are forced to do the right thing, and that is something that we should always remember,” said Mack.
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