REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – It is "The Game of Life" with a twist.
A new board game called "Life as a Blackman" is being advertised as a tool for teaching tolerance. But critics say the game merely reinforces negative ethnic stereotypes.
The game is similar to the classic Milton Bradley "Game of Life," but with one major difference: the race factor.
Each player enters the game's hypothetical world as an 18-year-old black male. A roll of the die determines where the player's adult life begins: "Ghetto," "Military," "Black University," or "Glamourwood" (the entertainment industry).
The ultimate goal is to reach a space on the board called "Freedom." Along the way, players land on spaces that may help or hinder their pursuit.
Often, players land on spaces marked as "Racism," which requires them to draw from a deck of "Racism" cards. For example, one card reads: "Your co-worker repeatedly tells you racist jokes. Move back two spaces." Another card reads: "You won a discrimination lawsuit. Collect $10,000."
"Life as a Blackman" is the brainchild of Redondo Beach, Calif., game maker Chuck Sawyer, who is black. Sawyer said his game is based on his own experiences as a minority trying to succeed in corporate America. And he wants to introduce his game into schools and businesses to teach racial sensitivity.
"We all need to be a little bit more sensitive and aware of each other as human beings," Sawyer said. "Instead of getting on a soap box and preaching about it, let's make a fun game and deal with the realities of being a minority in America."
But some question just how real the game is. Critics insist the game's references to the ghetto, police and jail merely reinforce negative black stereotypes.
"Black youth aren't suffering due to racism. They're suffering because they don't have mothers and fathers guiding them in the right way to go," said the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND), a non-profit group that seeks to strengthen families in urban areas.
"We should be encouraging them, letting them know if you work hard, treat people fairly and do what's right in life — in this country you can make it," Peterson said.
Throughout "Life as a Blackman," players have the option of committing crimes. Although they will most likely land in jail, players with more money can use "Dream Team" lawyers to get them out — an apparent reference to the O.J. Simpson trial.
"To equate [the black experience] with O.J. Simpson and the ghetto is definitely going in the wrong direction," Peterson said.
For now, "Life as a Blackman" is sold on the Internet and in small novelty stores. Sawyer said he is trying to get the game into major retail chains, "But being a black man, once again, it's a struggle."
Whether that struggle is against racism or market forces depends on how you play the game.