Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Who Knew About Monopoly's Biased Beginnings?

Who Knew?


Who knew that through six decades of playing Monopoly I was reinforcing racial stereotypes and segregation?


Who knew the board game’s rainbow colored avenues were linked to discrimination? I dare say, few knew until an article in The Atlantic claimed Monopoly properties “were based on segregated 1930s Atlantic City”: https://mol.im/a/9288387. 


Is a prejudice unknown still a prejudice? Are we now to scrutinize all playthings for their prejudicial development? Did Barbie sexualize young girls? Did Candy Land foster obesity and tooth decay. Did GI Joe glorify war. Did Ralphie’s fixation with getting a Red Ryder Air Rifle in “A Christmas Story” stoke allegiance to the National Rifle Association?


Sensibilities are being “woked.” If you drive a Jeep Cherokee you should be forewarned that the Cherokee Nation is asking Jeep to cease and desist using its ancestral tribal name to sell its SUVs (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/cherokee-nation-jeep-cherokee_n_6034187fc5b673b19b6a8c7d?ncid=engmodushpmg00000006). 


No word yet on whether cowboys and descendants of armed combatants in the Roman Coliseum are complaining about Jeep Wranglers and Jeep Gladiators. 


Questioning the pedigree of products is nothing new. For decades after the horrors of Nazi persecution became well known, Jews and others disdained buying or even riding in German made cars. That prohibition was maintained even after Israel accepted Mercedes-Benz cars as part of the German government’s reparations. 


I never owned a German car, but my first car was a Ford Mustang, despite Henry Ford being one of the biggest anti-Semites our country has fostered. 


What I find most troubling with counter culture idealists is their failure to accept personal growth and development among people who they believe do not deserve reverence because at some point in their lives, usually when they were younger, they exhibited some form of prejudice, even if it was an accepted form of behavior at the time.


The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, might have his name removed from a San Francisco school because decades before the Civil War he expressed views that were not unambiguous about the equal status of Blacks. 


I do not know what Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin, thought about slavery. But, knowing that the cotton gin was instrumental in the expansion of cotton producing lands in the South and thus the expansion of slavery, should we stop recognizing his achievement? 


How about the common use of the hymn “Amazing Grace?” Commonly heard during religious and secular rites (most recently played in the background Monday night as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses honored the 500,000 victims of COVID-19 in a White House ceremony), the words were written by English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton. 


But years before he wrote the hymn Newton was a slave trader. Under “woke” mentality that would disqualify his output. 


I’m of a similar mind to Bret Stephens of The New York Times who wrote, “Woke Me When It’s Over” (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/22/opinion/bon-appetit-cancel-culture.html?smid=url-share).

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