When our esteemed editor told me about the "White Issue," I gathered together a panel of friends to come up with a list of the whitest things in our society. The panel included Stew and Les, who are black, and Jay, who claims to be "half-black, half-Indian, and part something else." (Forgive him; he was educated in California.) We also had Skippy, who is black, but claims to be Asian by marriage. Then there were Rob, who is black and white, and Karon, who is white and black. Those aren't the same thing; it's like the characters played by Frank Gorshin and Greg Mullavey in that classic episode of the original Star Trek series.
(During the proceedings, we also got some input from Wamnee, who is Lakota Indian, and from my daughter, Darlene, who is mildly Hispanic, thinks she's Italian and often looks Polynesian.)
I, being the white guy, got to run the show. OK, OK, I, being the smartest one there, got to be the moderator. All right, fine! I bought the pizza, so they let me talk first.
We decided that we would keep it simple, not a lot of rules and no definitions. It's like the Most Valuable Player award in baseball. There are no real criteria, so each voter must decide what "Most Valuable" means to him and then vote accordingly.
I would throw out a category and the panel members would say whatever popped into their heads. Some of the votes were close; many were not. And occasionally, there would be a consensus and then somebody else would think of something and everybody would say, "Oh, yeah! That's right."
Most importantly, we agreed that "white" and "whitest" are not always pejorative terms. There's lots of good white stuff, like white meat of chicken, clean white sheets in a hotel room and wearing a white football uniform on a rainy night. There are also Barry White, Slappy White, Dwight White of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, Theodore H. White and The White Shadow.
Here are some of panel's (printable) selections:
WHITEST SCHOOL IN TUCSON: Catalina Foothills High School. Any school that wins state championships in golf, swimming, tennis and cross country has got to be extremely white. Not that minorities can't excel in these sports; it's just, why would they want to?
Note: Sabino got a lot of votes, but Wamnee said that her sister goes there, so it's not completely white. Ironically, her sister's Lakota name translates to White Thunder Woman.
WHITEST SONG EVER PLAYED ON THE RADIO: "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone. Jay, who was living in Long Beach at the time, swears that the Rodney King riots weren't touched off by the verdicts in the trial, but rather by a misguided prank in which somebody snuck a copy of the Boone song into an R&B radio station in L.A. and intentionally mislabeled it as Ice Cube's "Musta Been A Good Day."
People were already upset about the verdicts, but when they heard Boone singing about "So many nights, I sit by my window," it just sent people screaming into the street. Reginald Denny never was mad at the people who almost killed him, but he does want to kick Debby Boone's ass.
WHITEST GOLF COURSE IN TUCSON: All of 'em. Even El Rio.
WHITEST TV SHOW: 7th Heaven. One of our guilty pleasures, this show features a perfect and ridiculously handsome minister, his devoted wife and seven of the whitest kids in the history of TV. These kids are so nice and clean that by comparison Beaver Cleaver was leading the Thug Life. Even the black people on this show are white.
Last year's biggest crisis: Mary, the "wild" one, missed a car payment. Swear to God!
WHITEST LOCAL RADIO STATION (THAT PLAYS MUSIC): KFMA, 92.1 FM. Music for skateboarders. Alternative stuff, nothing you can dance to. Of course, you're playing music for white people, so dance-ability isn't high on the list of requirements. MEGA 106.3 plays Barry White; KFMA plays Very White.
WHITEST LOCAL TV NEWSCAST: Channel 9 News. Guy Atchley, Colleen Bagnall, Michael Goodrich--if there are whiter people here in Tucson, they're living underground. Of course, Kris Pickel and Randy Garsee on channel 13 are highly Caucasian, but the tie-breaker here is that Channel 9 has a British guy doing the weather on the weekends! Do you know how annoying that is? The guy should go back to England where they have no weather and then maybe he could report how many soccer fans got stomped to death after the local team tied Luxumbourg, 0-0 in overtime.
BEST MUSIC ALBUM EVER WITH A WHITE COVER: Average White Band. The self-titled work by the Scottish soul sextet, featuring the funk classics "Pick Up the Pieces" and "Person to Person," is not only one of the greatest R&B albums of all time, it's one of the best of any genre. Alas, the death of drummer and bandleader Robbie McIntosh of an accidental drug overdose just as the band was hitting Number One in the U.S. was a blow from which the group never fully recovered.
Oh yeah, while The Beatles didn't get any votes from the panel, it was an OK album, too.
WHITEST HOBBY: Cycling.
WHITEST FAD: Drinking over-priced coffee concoctions.
WHITEST PLACE TO SHOP: Fourth Avenue Street Fair. Wall-to-wall white people, many of whom are still living in other decades. Great fun.
COOLEST LOCAL WHITE PERSON: Lute Olson. Gave Tucson a national identity, gave the UA athletic department financial stability and gave local sports fans a reason to live.
GREATEST THING ABOUT BEING WHITE: You can drive one mile an hour over the speed limit and not have to worry about being pulled over.