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Board Game Decried as Racist

By Shanshan Jiang, Contributing Writer

A new board game that substitutes pimps and prostitutes for traditional Monopoly pieces has spurred criticism and charges of racism across the country—and at Harvard.

Rather than coveted properties like Boardwalk and Park Place, the new Ghettopoly game features squares like Smitty’s XXX Peep Show and Tyron’s Gun Shop. And the object of the game is to buy stolen property and build crack houses while trying to avoid being shot.

Black and minority leaders across the country have openly condemned the game, calling it a racist and offensive perpetrator of negative stereotypes.

The National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has led a movement calling for an end to the production and sale of Ghettopoly, and is urging consumers to boycott stores that sell it.

Urban Outfitters, the chain clothing store that sold the game, has removed Ghettopoly from its shelves.

“It is disturbing...to promote and capitalize off such negative aspects of society that cause great harm to individuals and to the African-American community at-large,” NAACP President Kweisi Mfume wrote in a letter to David Chang, the creator of the Ghettopoly game. “We shall not sit by quietly and allow this type of insult to occur.”

Despite the criticism, Chang, who immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan at the age of 8, defended his game as a humorous representation of real life.

“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...then we’ll continue to live in blame and bitterness,” Chang said in a statement.

In addition to objections from minority groups, Chang is also facing a potential lawsuit from Hasbro, the creator of Monopoly.

Last Friday, the president of Hasbro’s U.S. branch said that the company will sue Chang unless he immediately stops selling he game. “We want to make it clear that Hasbro has absolutely no connection to the reprehensible ‘Ghettopoly game,’” Bifulco said.

Though no Harvard organizations have formally taken action against the game, several individuals have tried to expose the community to the issue and contact Chang.

Jennifer Hawkins ’04, a member of the Black Community Leaders board and a former officer in both the Black Students Association and the Association of Black Harvard Women said she wrote to Chang, but only received an automatic e-mail response stating that his game was not “Blackopoly,” and that he was not racist.

Hawkins said she was “outraged” when she heard about the game.

“There is a fine line between harmless humor and offensive perpetuation of stereotypes, and David Chang has crossed that line,” she said. “His game ceased to be harmless when he decided to make it into a game.”

Hawkins said that Urban Outfitters was willing to sell the game because they were ignorant of the game’s potentially harmful effects.

Hawkins said a manager she contacted at Urban Outfitters in Harvard Square did not wish to speak to her.

“She thought we were out of line for complaining about the game now instead of a few months ago when it first hit the shelf,” said Hawkins.

Other features of the game include the intentionally mispelled names of famous figures such as “Martin Luthor King Jr.” and “Malcum X.”

The game also allows players to draw “Hustler” and “Ghetto Stash” cards with instructions such as, “You and your boyz just spotted a rapper at Weinstein’s flashin some Bling Blings. You decided to jack da fool. Collect $150” and “You are a little short on loot, so you decide to stick up the bank. Collect $75 from each playa.”

On the Ghettopoly website, Chang promises more board games of the same character, including Hoodopoly, Hiphopopoly, Redneckopoly and Thugopoly.

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