Playing Monopoly at Thanksgiving

The Honest Therapist
4 min readDec 3, 2019

Thanksgiving was lovely. I spent it with my spouse’s side of the family. The White, Southern side. Brothers- and sisters-in-law, and their children. (No “seniors,” because sadly, they’ve already passed.) We had a really great time. They are truly wonderful people.

And yes, shit came up.

Compared to the horror stories of many families in this country, mine was Thanksgiving Lite. But there were some moments that made my racism radar go off. Loudly.

Like when one of them kept referring to Black people as “they.” As in, “We try to help them, but they just don’t want help!”

Or the other one talked about how “they” behave at funerals and in hospitals when given bad news about their loved ones. “It’s cultural.”

Or when those same two (rich White) people referred to the “girl” that comes to their house and “helps” them — i.e., their Black cleaning lady, who is an older woman — as “part of the family.” I thought, “Really? ’Cause I don’t remember seeing this “girl” at any weddings or graduations. Or Thanksgiving, for that matter. I’ve met all your family. Yet I’ve never even heard you mention this other family member.” I almost asked them what the names and ages of her kids are, but… I was tired from all that cooking.

Later that weekend some of us went to see Frozen II. Another brother-in-law asked about the movie, and I told him, “It was about white supremacy!” He looked me in the face and said, “Now why did you have to go and make it about that?” I didn’t make it about anything! I didn’t make the movie! Disney did. (Or Pixar. Whatever.)

Compared to the horror stories of many families in this country, mine was Thanksgiving Lite.

But the most memorable part of the weekend was when we were playing Monopoly with the kids. What a depressing fucking game. “I don’t like this game,” I said. “It’s all about money.” My sister-in-law replied, “Well, that’s life.” And I said, “No. The Game of Life is about life; you have kids and pets, and get married, and go to college if you want, and choose a profession, and go on trips, and get sick, and win prizes… This game is all about money. And I don’t like it.” She said, “That’s because you’re a socialist. We live in a capitalist country. You gotta get with the program. Being rich is great!”

She was kidding, of course. But I was worried. What are we teaching these kids, here? And her 10 year-old son was acting greedy AF, trying to trick my 10 year-old son into selling him property for less than its value, laughing diabolically, and otherwise behaving exactly like this kid. And she was proud of him!

Meanwhile, my son was like, “What does it matter? If he wants it, he can have it.” My son and I also kept lending each other money, despite other players’ objections that this was against the rules. But I felt legit stressed when he needed some money and didn’t have it! And sincerely touched when he kept trying to give me money when I was out. And that is life. Families take care of each other. Plus, it’s about connections and who you know. And whether you have an inheritance.

Next time, I’m going to insist we play it that way.

She defended hers/ours. “Our grandfather-in-law worked very hard and invested wisely.” Hmm. So poor people don’t work hard? That’s why they’re poor? And I guess, since we were talking about race, I’ll go ahead and substitute “black and brown” for “poor.” So was she saying that black and brown people don’t work hard? That they’re poor because they want to be? “A lot of people work very hard and don’t get rewarded for their hard work,” I told her. Think of your stereotypical Mexican with three jobs. Living paycheck to paycheck. Are they going to have a nice inheritance to leave their kids? And are they going to invest? With what money? You can only invest money if you have money. Poor people can’t invest. Wisely or otherwise.

So Monopoly was stressful. But I already knew that. I’d recently heard about how a game of Monopoly can be a great explanation of racial inequity. Next time, I’m going to insist we play it that way.