Last week, Amazon removed Ghettopoly, a racially insensitive board game modeled after Hasbro’s popular board game Monopoly, from its website after a ground-swell of grassroots activism prompted the online retail giant to no longer allow the game to be sold through its online system.
The game — which features a pimp, a hoe, a 40-ounce bottle, a machine gun (oozie), a marijuana leaf, a basketball and a piece of crack as game pieces — was previously removed from the shelves from Urban Outfitters in 2003 after a nationwide protest by the NAACP that ultimately led to the game being barred from sale in the United States after Hasbro sued the inventor of the game, David Chang, for copyright infringement.
People from many sectors of the community took action after The Seattle Medium published a story, in the March 13, 2013 edition, about the availability of the game through Amazon’s website. Some people were so outraged that threaten to cancel their Amazon account if they game was not removed from the site.
Richard Johnson, former president of the Central Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Kent Black Action Committee, was so outraged by the sale of this game through Amazon that he started an online petition.
“I am starting a campaign to tell Amazon.com to stop selling the racially offensive board game called Ghettopoly,” wrote Johnson in an email to community leaders. “The battle to stop the sale of this game was originally fought back in 2003. Now its back being sold as a collector’s item. Once again we need to stand up and not accept this outrage. ‘Racism is Not A Game.’”
Gwen Allen-Carston, executive director of the Kent Black Action Commission, immediately took action after hearing that the game was being sold through Amazon as well. Allen-Carston not only signed the online petition started by Johnson, she called and e-mailed Amazon and encouraged others to do the same.
“I have raised my voice against this to Amazon and am looking forward to others doing the same,” wrote Allen in a social media post. “This madness has to stop…. SHAME SHAME SHAME ON YOU AMAZON!
Former Seattle/King County NAACP president Carl Mack, the catalyst for the 2003 protest, lent his support after hearing that Amazon apparently had taken no action to remove the game after being notified that the game was available through their website.
According to Amazon’s website, ‘listings for items that Amazon deems offensive are prohibited on Amazon.com. Amazon reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of listings on its site, and remove any listing at any time.’ Examples of prohibited listings include, ‘Products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.’
“Here is their policy about racial insensitive material,” said Mack in an article that appeared in the March 13, 2013 edition of The Seattle Medium. “Given their policy, they still don’t appear to have a problem with selling this [game]. In our minds they don’t value diversity, and they certainly don’t value the dignity of Black folks as clients.”
Last Friday morning the issue with Amazon and Ghettopoly was escalated even further during The Seattle Medium’s Rhythm and News radio program, as host Chris B. Bennett, co-publisher of The Seattle Medium held a roundtable discussion with Rev. Carl Livingston, Florida-based political analyst/commentator Opio Sokoni and Hazel Edney, editor-in-chief of the TriceEdney News Wire where they talked about the game and its distribution through Amazon. The trio of guests empowered many listeners not only in Seattle, but across the country to contact Amazon and demand that the game be removed from their website.
“When it’s all said and done, we’re the ones that are going to have to stand up and say something about this,” said Sokoni. “So, I would encourage people to call [Amazon] and let them know that this is unacceptable.”
Mack, who now resides in Maryland and was inspired by the level of activism that was taking place with regards to this issue, wrote the following post on his Facebook Page last Friday to encourage people to sign the online petition:
“Family, I need some help reminding Amazon and any other company who sells racially insensitive crap that we can hurt them economically too… Amazon should be ashamed of themselves. I am not sure I am going to forgive them”
Allen-Carston received an email from Amazon over the weekend stating that the game was no longer available on their site.
“All I did was make a phone call and send an email, with passion and concern,” said Allen-Carston. “It may not be much, but, it is a step in a direction which moves me forward to do more.”
Despite the swift removal of the game from their website, many community members still find fault with Amazon for not removing the game without being forced to do so by the community.
“Their handling of Ghettopoly is commendable but I’m sorry to see that it took the community to light some fire under them in order for them to take it down.,” said Adam Myers, a local business owner and life member of the NAACP.
Amazon has not responded to The Medium’s request for comments since removing the game from their site.