I had about the toughest audience I’ve ever had the other day. They asked more questions than a room full of editors after cocktail hour. Twenty-two of the sharpest minds I’ve ever encountered, though they got rammy at times, especially after a steady diet of Pepsi and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
My guests were kids. They were like any other kids, most seemed smart, a couple seemed bored and one fellow must have heard one of my speeches before, because he sat there the whole time wearing his head phones. My luncheon guests were African-American students from the Meade School in Philadelphia, and my fine young friends come from some of the poorest, toughest neighborhoods in Pennsylvania.
But instead of listening to me sound off about the few virtues of being a journalist – the one or two of them that may exist – I could have let them play a new board game invented right here in Pennsylvania: Ghetto-opoly.
Ghetto-opoly is a whole new version of the famous Monopoly franchise where the little rolly polly Mayor guides you around the board to riches or ruin. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 has a lot of licensed knock offs. In addition to the 70 year old original there are games for Penn State, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia but they are not quite like the latest version.
Ghetto-opoly invented by a native of Taiwan who now lives in Western Pennsylvania can give youngsters a whole new thrill at not passing go. Ads for the game invite players to buy stolen properties, pimp hoes, build crack houses and car jack hostages. You might get to own the Westside liquor store and pay protection fees of $25, or get a ghetto stash card where you can collect $50 from each player for getting them all addicted to crack.
For $30 you get everything you need to play: a game board featuring properties like a loan shark tray, crack houses, and 17 housing projects. Playing pieces include a 40 ounce machine gun, marijuana leaf, crack rocks and counterfeit money.
The creator of the game thinks it’s all innocent fun if as he says “just a little edgy” and to show his good humor he’s even included a Taiwanese restaurant owner that cooks dogs. An allegedly humorous reference to his own father’s restaurant.
Philadelphia based Urban Outfitters stores have pulled the game off shelves after a media uproar but Internet sales remain brisk.
My 22 young friends might have a chance someday to make it out of their neighborhoods. Hopefully they’ll become something more respectable than a commentator; they’re smart and energetic enough. In the meantime the tragedy of the lifestyle that surrounds them is an accident of birth. They don’t deserve to have the rest of the world making light of circumstances that at worst are endured and at best conquered. Hasbro Toys owns the rights to the Monopoly franchise and have contacted the inventor of Ghetto-opoly to stop producing the game. They should buy him out. Maybe they could persuade him to sell using a 40 ounce machine gun and then pay him off with his own counterfeit money.
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.