AN EXCESS of chutzpah oozed its way into the body politic in 1990, rising to such alarming levels that we now face a danger of chutzpah overload. Meteorologists may now have to give out chutzpah alerts with their daily weather reports. So pervasive is the phenomenon that I, in a flash of inspired lunacy, have decided to inaugurate the First Annual Chutzpah Awards. Without further ado, I now cite the winners.
* 9th runner-up: Rap musician Vanilla Ice, plucked from a Dallas suburb for his Aryan good looks to cash in on the popularity of rap music, has shown no talent for the genre. He has given a bad name to good white rap artists like Third Bass, Everlast and Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block. Vanilla Ice and his agent are probably laughing all the way to the bank, but connoisseurs of good rap music are not amused.
* 8th runner-up: Shahrazad Ali, author of the contentious, invidious "Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman," showed even less talent for writing than Vanilla Ice showed for rap music. Not everyone with writing skills no better than a middle schooler's has the pluck to write a book. I, for one, pray that in the future Ali tries nothing more ambitious than grocery lists.
* 7th runner-up: George Bush, who's been quoted as saying Saddam Hussein had better be out of Kuwait by Jan. 15 or "get his ass kicked," shows that his approach to foreign policy and conflict resolution is on a level with that of the thugs down at Park Heights and Woodland avenues in Baltimore. Besides, doesn't Congress choose those who get their asses kicked -- and when?
* 6th runner-up: Saddam, by invading Kuwait, showed more genuine macho stupidity than even George Bush.
* 5th runner-up: Radio talk show host and Baltimore Enterprise columnist Les Kinsolving -- living proof that talk radio is the last refuge for middle-aged, right-wing white guys -- wrote a tirade against the defendants in the Central Park mugging and rape case, lamenting the fact that the "animals" only got 10 years. He ranted. He raved. He may have, for all we know, come perilously close to bursting a blood vessel. Kinsolving makes the list because he has expressed no similar vitriol about the white mob that killed Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst or the wrist-slapping justice now being meted out to those indicted for the crime.
* 4th runner-up: National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL owners voted to have the 1993 Super Bowl moved from Phoenix, Ariz., because Arizonans had committed the unpardonable sin of voting against a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Meanwhile, the NFL's sorry record on racial equality is a matter of record. An honorable mention should go to anyone else trying to twist the arms of Arizonans on the King holiday issue. Am I the only black in the country who believes the people of Arizona shouldn't have to genuflect when the King holiday is mentioned?
* 3rd runner-up: Baltimore city cab drivers, who throughout the year drove past droves of blacks trying to hail taxis, asked for a rate increase because they weren't making enough money. In other words, the customers they do pick up will have to subsidize their racism. Independent hackers, now serving many of the people snubbed by taxis, should run Baltimore cab companies out of business.
* 2nd runner-up: Marion Barry, who whined about a measly six-month jail sentence for drug possession, should be reminded that people who play Russian roulette with bullets in all six chambers should not complain when they get shot.
* 1st runner-up: Thomas Pennfield Jackson, the judge who sentenced Barry to six months for a first-offense misdemeanor, had previously distinguished himself by trying to ban the Rev. George Stallings and Minister Louis Farrakhan from Barry's trial. Jackson told a group of law students that several black jurors in the Barry case "had their own agenda," but clearly the only one with an agenda was Thomas Pennfield Jackson, who impressed no one as Mr. Impartiality. Jackson should also get the Roger Taney Award for lowering American jurisprudence to depths it hasn't reached in years.
* And (drum roll) the winner(s): The affluent, mostly white editors of the New York Times preached to poor, black residents of Brooklyn and called them racists for boycotting two Asian businesses. The editors of the Times need to be reminded of a couple of things. First, when white people accuse black people of being racist, the accusation takes on the aura of a compliment. Second, there are valid reasons for blacks to boycott Asian businesses. Most Asian businesses in black neighborhoods have few, if any, black employees. Products in Asian stores can be purchased more cheaply at the larger supermarket chains. Boycotting Asian businesses isn't racism. It's an exercise in enlightened self-interest and plain, good economic sense. It's too bad the editors of the New York Times don't think poor black people have any.
Gregory P. Kane writes from Baltimore.