With the holidays approaching, many families will come together under one roof and do the inevitable: argue about politics. Martinsburg and the Eastern Panhandle have social concerns like every other city and town, including employment and inequality. These subjects can be a source of frustration and anguish for even the most open minded individuals. How can a family survive talking about important social issues during the holiday season?

One solution is to make a game of it. DoSomething.org hosted a campaign for a game called Oppression Monopoly. The concept is simple: play a game of Monopoly with initial changes in properties, starting money, and supplemental rules to assist with discussions about inequality, discrimination, affirmative action, and the prison industrial complex. A blogger by the name of Julia Berner aka LadyJulBug posted an article about this game and created an edited version of the instructions and rules.

I recently had the opportunity to play Oppression Monopoly during a lesson on gender and employment while teaching a sex and gender class at Shepherd University. My fourteen students enjoyed the experience and learned about discrimination and wage gaps while we played. We were able to laugh while processing these serious topics.

Although social justice issues are no laughing matter, we can learn the most about ourselves and the world around us through play. Just as Operation teaches children the basics of anatomy (and patience), Oppression Monopoly is a great way to introduce and discuss major societal and systemic issues to those who may be unaware or misinformed. Games allow for role playing; putting ourselves in the shoes of others. Through Oppression Monopoly, players must empathize with the plights of people who may not live our similar life experiences. Playing a game can also disarm defenses and allow people to relax when talking about such difficult subjects. Oppression Monopoly may also provoke a thoughtful conversation once the game has ended, and while Uncle Frank may still believe that all non-violent drug offenders should serve a lengthy prison sentence, perhaps he now understands how the lack of economic opportunity in a community directly impacts the manufacture and sale of drugs.

If you find your family talking about money, gender and racial discrimination, and affirmative action while gathered around the holiday table try out a game of Oppression Monopoly. It’s an eye opening experience.


(Photo Credit: Nicholas Trietsch)

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