INSPIRED by the success of the inaugural 1990 Chutzpah Awards (I deeply appreciate the touching letters I received from the Wyoming State Hospital for the Criminally Insane), I have decided to continue the tradition and hand out awards for 1991.
Without further ado, let's get right to the deserving winners:
* Special "Say What?" Chutzpah Award: Every now and then along comes a comment so egregious that the listener is compelled to utter, "Say what?" The winners in this category are those who opposed the concept of all-male schools for black boys because they would "reinforce segregation." The schools in question were already segregated. The "reinforce segregation" argument makes sense only if droves of affluent, white %o suburbanites are trying to tear down the doors of black, inner-city schools so that their children can benefit from the exhilarating experience of integrated education. If that happened, I must have missed it.
* Tenth runner-up: Clarence Thomas, for likening his confirmation troubles to a "high-tech lynching." Justice Thomas conveniently overlooked the fact that he had aligned himself with the conservative wing in American politics, which has traditionally opposed any advancement in civil rights, including anti-lynching laws.
* Ninth runner-up: members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bunch sat in judgment of Thomas on the issue of sexual harassment. Of course, none of those guys would even dream of sexually harassing a woman.
* Eighth runner-up: Spike Lee, who proclaimed loudly that his bizarre production, "Jungle Fever," deserved the Cannes Film Festival award. Never mind that he put the film's major climax in the subplot and the minor climax -- what there was of it -- in the major plot. Now Lee -- amid a torrent of protest -- wants to tackle the subject of Malcolm X and says he can't understand the controversy. Yo Spike, do you know what the protesters are saying? Do ya know, do ya know, do ya know? They're saying the job requires a filmmaker who can actually write a coherent script.
* Seventh runner-up: Michael Jackson. Mr. Aspiring Caucasian making a record about racial harmony?
* Sixth runner-up: the Irsays of Indianapolis, who still have the nerve to try to run a football franchise despite a 19-year record of futility.
* Fifth runner-up: rap group N.W.A., whose album, "Niggaz4Lif," dredged the very depths of sexism and misogyny. As if the album weren't bad enough, one member of the group was convicted of assaulting a female talk-show host. Rapper Easy E, clearly the intellect of the group, offered the explanation that "the bitch deserved it." Granted, members of N.W.A. are probably pursuing careers in rap music until they can achieve their ultimate goal in life: pressing license plates for some state or federal institution. But their insistence on perpetuating every ugly, negative stereotype about black men is perturbing. They leave you pining away for "Amos 'n Andy" reruns, where the stereotyping at least has the redeeming quality of being funny. Kingfish, where is you now dat you is really needed?
* Fourth runner-up: Those stalwart souls who actually dredged up the chutzpah to buy N.W.A.'s "Niggaz4Lif." The album doesn't merit being stolen, much less bought.
* Third runner-up: David Duke, who should actually appear on this list twice: first, for running for president after being buried in the Louisiana gubernatorial primary; second, for thinking that anyone really believes his Klan-Nazi philosophy is a thing of the past. If he's looking for brotherhood awards, perhaps we can nominate him for the "Adolf Hitler Be Kind to Minorities" medal.
* Second runner-up: Those Republicans opposed to David Duke. Isn't it about time someone asked why Duke chose to join the Republican Party? Probably for the same reason the Dixiecrats did. Dixiecrats, those old pro-segregation Southern Democrats who opposed civil rights legislation at every opportunity, flocked to the Republican Party and were welcomed with open arms. Quiet as it's kept, the Republicans got the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan in both the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. Much ado has been made about the leftward shift of the Democratic Party. The Democrats only seemed to shift left because of the inexorable rightward drift of the Republicans.
* First runner-up: James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., wrote a book proclaiming his innocence and assigning blame to the FBI. A word of warning for those tempted to believe Ray's claim: His wife thinks he's guilty.
* And the winner: Those blacks who rioted against Jews in Brooklyn last summer showed enough chutzpah to clinch all the places on this list. To fully appreciate the audacity involved, a little background: A Hasidic Jew killed a black boy in a traffic accident. Hasidic Jews kill black youngsters -- accidentally or intentionally -- about once every, oh, 200 years.
The incident touched off two to three days of rioting in which a Hasidic Jewish youth was stabbed to death. Black drug dealers, thugs and reprobates kill more black children in one week -- in Baltimore! -- than Jews kill in any 20-year period. No black community anywhere in the country has rioted against or killed any member of the criminal element sucking the very lifeblood out of the race. Until we do, I think we should leave Hasidic Jews in peace. Too bad the dolts in Brooklyn don't feel the same.
Gregory P. Kane writes from Baltimore.