'Ghettopoly' is what happens when hip-hop is celebrated
Mary Mitchell – Chicago Sun-Times Oct. 5, 2003
By the time I called Urban Outfitters on Rush Street to find out if they had any more "Ghettopoly" games on their shelves, they had sold out.
"I'll have to put you on the waiting list," the clerk told me.
"How long is the list?"
"It's a two-week wait."
I tried another Urban Outfitters, this one at 2352 N. Clark.
"We've got a pretty long waiting list," the clerk said.
Either the clerks were lying, or consumers rushed down to Urban Outfitters to purchase the controversial board game the morning after WLS-Channel 7's Charles Thomas reported that the retailer was selling "Ghettopoly" at its chain stores.
The game is a takeoff on Monopoly. But as Thomas reported, instead of a top hat, cane and mustache, the Ghettopoly guy is a "thuggish, bandana-wearing black man with bug eyes, peering over dark glasses. He clenches a marijuana cigarette, holding an Uzi in one hand and a bottle of malt liquor in the other."
Game cards include ghetto stash and hustle cards, a loan shark tray, 40 crack houses, 17 projects, pink slip cards and seven game pieces (Pimp, Hoe, 40 oz, Machine Gun, Marijuana Leaf, Basket Ball and Crack) and counterfeit money.
The fallout from activists in the black community over the board game has been fast and furious.
"It is not only insulting and ignorant, but it's shameful. I'd like to get ahold of the person who is behind it because this is something that should be stopped. . . . It promotes the absolute worst of racism. It's racial pornography. It takes the worst element of race and prejudice and begins to glorify it and raise it up," the Rev. Michael Pfleger told the Chicago Defender.
Getting to the person responsible for "Ghettopoly" won't be easy because the company is apparently running its operation from an Internet site. Phone calls are being handled by an automated voice-mail system. The Web site also advertised other games such as "Hoodopoly" and "Redneckopoly."
Allegedly, the company's owner got his idea for "Ghettopoly" from watching hip-hop videos.
"Well, I'm just not shopping at Urban Outfitters anymore," my saucy 24-year-old daughter told me with fire in her eyes.
"Is this really any worse than the 'Ghetto Prom' images that are being circulated on the Internet?" I asked.
"I knew you'd say that," she snapped. "As far as I'm concerned, that's where the game should have stayed."
Although Ghettopoly.com owner David T. Chang is shielded by the Internet, Urban Outfitters should feel the heat for distributing the offensive game. By the way, the PR specialist for Urban Outfitters did not return repeated phone calls about this subject.
I am more dismayed than angry. Still, this game may turn out to be a good way to show black children how the denigrating, violent and downright nasty hip-hop lyrics they soak up like sponges have tainted the perception of what black Americans are about.
Chang did his homework.
The symbols found in "Ghettopoly" are an accurate reflection of what hip-hop heroes are selling to White America. Ironically, people are outraged about Urban Outfitters' selling a foul board game, but few people of influence seem to care that every record store in America is selling music that glorifies the very stereotypes the game promotes.
How can black people be outraged over a board game when black superstars have gotten rich by promoting those same stereotypes? These performers aren't boycotted. They are worshipped.
There's something else that is sad about all this.
At one point, black people in the media thought they had buried the word ghetto, along with "colored," "Negro," and the "n" word. Many of us made a conscious effort to replace ghetto with "inner city" or "urban center" because we believed ghetto was a bigoted catch-all for black neighborhoods.
That effort was thrown back in our faces as a younger generation paraded ghetto before the world as if being impoverished and stuck in a crime-ridden area was the new status symbol.
Victor Trotter, a reader in Naperville, appears to have a clear understanding of why black people have themselves to blame for the bold marketing of these negative stereotypes:
"It starts with the subject of money," he said in an e-mail. "We pass on an extremely high value of money to our children. They grow up thinking that it is the ONLY thing important. That sets them up to do ANYTHING for money. When the record companies tell a talented artist that they only want music with degrading lyrics . . . they make it. Now the stations are flooded with this poisonous music. The record companies not only rake in huge amounts of money, they get the 'rush' of negatively influencing a whole generation of youth."
The guy who created "Ghetto-poly" is a lot like those record executives.
Only now, real black people aren't needed to play the game.
Hip Hop Holds Blacks Back
Last updated 16/10/2003