I guess I'm obligated to be offended by this new board game. After all, Al Sharpton says I should.
And not just Rev. Al, either. Many other people - including NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and
radio host Tom Joyner - have pronounced themselves offended by the game. Not that I blame them.
It's called Ghettopoly, a take-off on Parker Bros. venerable Monopoly. Except that this game
isn't about moving a car or a top hat around the board, buying properties and landing on Boardwalk
after somebody has put up a hotel.
In Ghettopoly, your token might be a crack rock, a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor or a
basketball, and your goal is to build crack houses while pimping "hos" and getting carjacked. The
game reportedly features an image of Martin Luther King scratching the front of his pants and
proclaiming, "I have an itch."
So, no, you won't find "Ghettopoly" under my Christmas tree. Nor does it break my heart that
retailers have been pressured into removing it from their shelves or that Hasbro, which owns Parker
Bros., last week filed suit against the game's creator, David Chang of St. Marys, Pa.
For all that, though, I am not angry at Chang, who seems more misguided than malicious.
15 YEARS LATE
To the contrary, it's the campaign against him that gets my dander up - not because it's wrong,
but because it's about 15 years late. I keep wondering where all this fury was when rappers like 50
Cent, Nelly, Ja Rule and Snoop Dogg first started pimping, drug-dealing and drive-by shooting all
over the video channels.
Where were the boycotters when these people and others were creating the template that Chang drew
from? Where was the moral indignation when African-American people were reducing African-American
life to caricature?
Or is it just easier to raise rage against Chang because he is not black?
With a few isolated exceptions - activist C. Delores Tucker, the Rev. Calvin Butts - African
Americans have been conspicuously silent as black music, once the joy and strength of black people,
has detoured into an open sewer of so-called "hard-core rap."
The vast majority of that genre's practitioners are nothing more and nothing less than modern-day
Uncle Toms, selling out African-American dreams by peddling a cartoon of African-American life
unencumbered by values. It is a cynical, knowing act, promulgated by young men and women who get
rich by selling lies of authenticity to young people, white and black, who are looking for lessons
in blackness. They are as much minstrels and peddlers of stereotype as Stepin Fetchit, Bert Williams
or any black performer who ever smeared black goop on his face or shuffled onstage beneath a
battered top hat.
The only difference - the only one - is that Bert Williams and Stepin Fetchit had no other
My personal theory is that black people of my generation - I'm 46 - have resisted speaking
forcefully against this because, like all baby boomers, we are deathly afraid of appearing less than
hip. But as I recall, our parents never worried about that. They understood their role to be not
hipness, but guidance.
THE FRUIT OF FAILURE
I am of a generation that has largely failed that role, that turned "judgment" into a four-letter
word. The fruit of that failure lies before us: an era of a historical young people who traffic in
stereotypes that would not be out of place in a Ku Klux Klan meeting.
And I'm supposed to be angry at David Chang? I'm not. He's just a good capitalist, just
regurgitating what he has been taught in hopes of turning a buck. My anger is not for the student,
but for his teachers. And not just my anger, but my sorrow, too.
I'm not losing sleep worrying about what David Chang thinks of black people. I'm more concerned
with what black people think of themselves.