I’m sure some started squirming in their red theatre seats; or some started studying the intricate designs of the gold wall art that adorns the buff-colored walls of the iconic Apollo Theater when comedian Monique, dressed in a brightly colored dress, accused Lee Daniels of telling her that she had been Blackballed in Hollywood because she wasn’t “playing the game.” Yes, some may have been uncomfortable, many laughed, but no one — I’m sure — questioned what Monique meant when she referred to “the game.”
All of us, Black Americans, are suited up, on the court, and forced to play the game to a certain extent: some do it just to stay alive, to not be harassed by the police, to get benefits they are due; to receive decent customer service at any food establishment or store; to keep a job and to get promoted; to get loans approved and gain entrance into schools, clubs and colleges.
We may not even recognize we are playing it as it’s been so ingrained in our psyche; yet, we are. We are indeed playing a game (and simultaneously getting played) that is as real as monopoly or any other board game.
THE GAME: B.P.A. (BLACK PERSON in AMERICA)
THE OBJECTIVE: At minimum, to survive — but Players also have the possibility of getting very close to reaching the “Mountain Top.” Note: reaching the top can’t fully be realized by a Black American because when you move to the best neighborhoods, place your kids in the best schools, are able to shop in the best stores and eat in the best restaurants, you will still never feel fully comfortable on the top of the mountain, as many will let you know through small gestures and large insults that you are not welcome and you should not get too comfortable.
THE STRATEGY: To make yourself as acceptable and as similar to White people as possible. The one, rare exception to this rule is if you are exceptionally skilled at something such as sports or music where White people benefit (their favorite team wins, or their kid’s team wins, or they can somehow monetize your talent and profit).
- Mountain Top Game Board
- White-Acceptability Card (these will advance you the more acceptable you are)
- Black Cards (e.g. unlawful stop by police; implicit bias by your teacher results in a lower grade)
- Board of Director Dice (BOD spaces involve admittance to college, job opportunities, mortgage opportunities, promotions). You must roll the dice. To be successful, it must land on a 1. All the other numbers, 2 – 6, result in denial or rejection.
- Every player should be placed BELOW the base of the mountain; but should be placed at different starting points. In other words, none of the players should be placed on the actual mountain – all haven’t started climbing but some will be closer to starting the climb. A player’s placement is determined by skin color, hair texture, gender, parental educational level, originating neighborhood, name, etc. This feature ensures that the game will not only be challenging but also highly internally competitive as it will create animosity between players. The house is at a disadvantage if the players work together, so rules have been established to create dissension. At any time, the players can override these rules, but all must agree.
- Each player will be given $1,000, which is 10% of the money held by the house. If they want to purchase anything, they must request a loan or apply for an additional job from the house. They will roll the Board of Directors dice and it will be solely white discretion that will determine what Is approved. If they want to do independent things such as write a book or create music or art, the product must be acceptable and pleasing to the White audience for it to gain approval for distribution.
- Players move throughout the board and up or down the hill. If they land on a White Acceptability space, they should pick the card and do what is instructed (cut dreadlocks, stop socializing with other minorities at work, never acknowledge racism, etc.). This card will advance them. Landing on a black card will set them back.
- Players will advance up the mountain based on how many White Acceptability challenges they are willing to take (each challenge is worth a different amount of spaces). The players who decide to reject challenges will not move up the mountain. All players will at some point land on a “Black card” space which will send them backwards regardless of how high they are up on the mountain.
- Players who are higher up the mountain have the option to help out their fellow players by passing them one of their White Acceptability cards. The other player can choose to reject it and the challenge.
We all play the game to a certain extent. Our level of play ranges from Tiger Woods to Muhammad Ali; from Sammy Davis Jr. to Harry Belafonte; from Ben Carson to Maxine Waters. The truth is, White Americans own America. For us to get anything requires a “yes” (usually multiple yeses) at some level from them. Perhaps instead of spending so much energy and effort playing the game, we should collectively be trying to change the game. That’s the only way we can truly become winners.