Until recently, Urban Outfitters sold a game called Ghettopoly. The object of Ghettopoly, a take on the board game Monopoly, is to get as much money as possible in order to buy stolen goods and set up crack houses on different properties around the board. Some of these properties include Harlem, Hells Kitchen, Smitty’s XXX Peep Show, Hernando’s Chop Shop and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — in which Dr. King has one hand raised with the other holding his genitals saying “I have an itch.”
This game is both offensive and derogatory. It uses stereotypes to perpetuate negative images of the black community. The front picture contains a large black man, reminiscent of early 20th century Sambos, jumping out of the word “Ghettopoly” with a gun in one hand and a forty in the other.
A “Ghetto Stash” card reads, “You got your whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50 from each playa.” This card trivializes the issue of drug addiction and propagates the stereotype that all black neighborhoods are full of drugs and criminal activity.
A “Hustle” card says “You and your boyz just spotted a rapper at Weinstein’s flashin some Bling Blings. You decided to jack da fool. Collect $150.” This card is another instance of stereotypical criminal activity included in the game that serves to impair the image of blacks.
Yet another “Hustle” card declares, “It’s past midnight and you’re feeling horny. Go straight to Cheap Tricks Ave. If you pass Let$ Roll Steal $$$.” This card promotes the stereotype of sexual promiscuity and lack of sexual responsibility within the black community.
While it is certainly not meant to be a portrayal of real life, the game perpetuates images that are ultimately damaging to the black community as a whole. Not only that, it trivializes important issues. One of the cards in the game says, “You found out today that the chicken head you be messin wit last night has STD’s. Pay $50 for a shot of antibiotics.” STD’s are major concern and not easily dealt with by a simple shot of antibiotics.
We, the black community here at Yale and in New Haven, are upset at Urban Outfitters for selling such an offensive item. And although they have already agreed to stop selling it, the issue is that they sold the game in the store at all.
Initially, we thought, “Shouldn’t Urban Outfitters have had the sense not to sell this game in the first place? Shouldn’t they have expected outraged patrons to protest?”
Then we realized, the answer was no. They would not have expected any outrage at all. The clientele of Urban Outfitters is largely young, white and middle class. Their patrons apparently saw nothing wrong with it. This game flew off the shelves. It sold out well before the press conference on Thursday even took place.
Isn’t it a sad commentary on the state of race relations here at Yale that we cannot count on each other for support in the face of opposition? When a shockingly offensive item is sold at a store, that store should expect a great deal of protest from the community at large. That’s why businesses try not to sell items that will be distasteful to their customers.
So the question becomes, where is the outrage from the white community here at Yale and in New Haven? Where is the unilateral denunciation of Urban Outfitters by the Managing Board of the Yale Daily News, as happened when the African-American Cultural Center brought Amiri Baraka to speak?
The lack of response from the white community clearly shows we have a long way to go. People say we’ve come so far in terms of racial affairs, and then something like this comes along and shows we’re not as far as we thought.
Sarita Barton is a junior in Branford College.