No shortage of chutzpah near or far for 2003 awards

December 31, 2003|By GREGORY KANE

AS ANOTHER year comes to a close tonight, it's time once again to honor those who've elevated gall, audacity and excessive cheekiness to a cultural imperative.

Yes, the 2003 Chutzpah Awards are upon us. There just might be a year when these awards aren't given out, but 2003 wasn't one of them. So without further ado, it's on to the kudos.

Ninth runner-up: Rapper Jay-Z, whose latest album features a cut with the lyric "I got 99 problems but a b-- ain't one." Call some women that word, Jay-Z, and you'll have several problems, a lot more than 99. Jay-Z has said the album this foolishness appears on will be his last. Hey Jay, can we get that in writing, patna?

Eighth runner-up: Rush Limbaugh, who whipped out the race card when it was absolutely unnecessary by saying the media overrated Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb because he's black. McNabb responded by leading the Eagles to victories in 10 of their next 11 games. Limbaugh, to his credit, admitted the error of his ways by suggesting he and McNabb might do a Campbell's Chunky Soup commercial in which McNabb pours the porridge over his head. Limbaugh's mea culpa is the reason he's behind:

Seventh runners-up: Warren Sapp and Rasheed Wallace, stars in, respectively, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, for comparing their situation to slavery and insulting the ancestors of nearly every African-American in the country. It's a pity, isn't it, that we can't ship Sapp and Wallace to countries like Mauritania and the Sudan so they can experience some real slavery?

Sixth runners-up: Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the black daughter of longtime segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, and CBS newsman Dan Rather for their interview in which Washington-Williams revealed the "secret" of her parentage. While these two droned on about what a good daddy old Strom was and how the Washington-Williams/Thurmond relationship was "poignant," neither thought to call the late senator the revolting hypocrite he was. He clearly didn't believe all the nonsense he uttered about the separation of the races and racial purity, and it would have been nice to hear Thurmond speak out against the racial violence - the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955 comes to mind - that he helped unleash with his rhetoric in his blessedly unsuccessful 1948 presidential run.

Fifth runners-up: Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer. In the Gratz vs. Bollinger case, they were in the majority in ruling against the University of Michigan. At issue was the school's undergraduate admissions policy that used race as "only" one of many factors and gave greater weight to "underrepresented" minorities - meaning no Asians. In the Grutter vs. Bollinger case, these two switched sides and joined the majority in ruling that racial preferences in the University of Michigan Law School's admissions policy were fine and dandy. You have to wonder how they kept straight faces when they pulled this off.

Fourth runner-up: Writer Amiri Baraka, the deposed poet laureate of New Jersey, who came to Coppin State College in March and read his poem "Somebody Blew Up America," which was ostensibly about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but was really an opportunity for Baraka to call National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice a "skeeza" - a derogatory street term for a woman - and to question the racial loyalty of folks like Secretary of State Colin Powell and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. You'd think Baraka would be leery of this "racial loyalty" business. Some folks remember when the Black Panther Party questioned his and Ron Karenga's loyalty in the late 1960s by alleging that Baraka's and Karenga's US organization was an FBI/CIA operation.

Third runner-up: Fired New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, who claimed victimhood and racism after getting caught lying through his teeth and plagiarizing stories.

Second runner-up: The Baltimore Board of Estimates, which - during a school budget crunch that has seen hundreds laid off - allocated up to $230,000 for legal advisers for City Council members being investigated by the U.S. attorney's office.

First runner-up: The Baltimore City Council, for not having the decency to reject the offer out of hand.

The winners: Members of the Baltimore school board, most of whom saw a $52 million deficit occur on their watch. You'd think most of them would be embarrassed enough to resign. You'd think, at the very least, they would walk into school headquarters for their meetings with bags over their heads. Alas, the mass resignations and bag-wearing haven't occurred.

When did a sense of shame die in this city?

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