Ghettopoly: No! Pimp Juice: Yes?

Board game's Asian creator says he followed the lead of African Americans who profit from the denigration of black culture

Ghettopoly or Pimp Juice. Which is more offensive? Some critics argue both, while others say only the former because a Taiwanese American created the board game whereas the latter is an energy drink created by black rapper Nelly.

Ghettopoly is a spin on the board game Monopoly. Machine guns, marijuana leaves, and basketballs replace the top hat, dog, and sports car playing pieces used in the classic Parker Bros. game. Instead of a bank, there is a loan shark tray that holds money to buy stolen properties that can be turned into crack houses. Other stereotypes include Ling-Ling’s Massage Parlor, Hernando’s Chop Shop, and Weinstein’s Gold and Platinum Jewelry Store.

David Chang, a former financial services broker, got the idea from watching the MTV program Cribs, which depicts the “ghetto-fabulous” lifestyles of the rich and famous. Sold on the Internet (www.ghettopoly.com), the game hit Urban Outfitters retail stores last year. But it has since been pulled from store shelves after being met with protest and anger by the NAACP and other groups. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and the Organization of Chinese Americans also have condemned the game. Thus far, the NAACP and other major black organizations have not shown the same moral outrage and concern regarding Pimp Juice (available in 20 U.S. markets) that they showed with Ghettopoly. Hasbro, the distributor of Monopoly, threatened to sue for copyright infringement.

However, Chang has argued that his creation is not racist. “It is just a game,” he writes in a message to “the haters” on his Website. “It’s not so different from what’s already out there in the entertainment media in America,” he adds, noting that rappers have lyrics about “sipping on 40s, pimping hoes, smoking the chronics, slinging crack rocks, and wicked jump shots.” Chang also points out that the game is not called “Blackopoly.”

Protests aside, the game has presented the black community with a moral dilemma. If Chang were African American, would there be so much hysteria? “Probably not, and that’s the problem,” says Dennis Greene, a law professor at Florida A&M University College of Law. “There are a lot of people who have made a very large living off of exploiting African American culture and selling some of the most cartoon-like fashions of it, from stand-up comics to filmmakers and rappers.”

Marcyliena Morgan, a Harvard associate professor and director of its hip-hop archive, argues that the game is completely outrageous: “Hip-hop videos do not make it acceptable to sell a game like this. There has got to be a line and Chang has crossed it.”