WASHINGTON. — Washington -- One of the subplots that run through the oral histories of the Civil Rights Documentation Project at Howard University is the passion of Jews in the great ''Negro'' movement of the 1960s.
A Negro Freedom Rider taking the dangerous bus trip through Georgia -- this is 1961 -- asks the rider next to him, a white man, why he is taking this chance. ''I am a Jew,'' the white man `D answered. ''Perhaps if someone had taken freedom rides in Germany, my people might not have been massacred by Hitler.''
The rides in America were almost ended by a clever tactic devised by the leaders of Jackson, Mississippi. The city fathers thought they could financially break the Congress of Racial Equality -- CORE -- and thus end the integrated bus rides by setting $500 bail on each of the 300 riders thrown into city jails for race-mixing. No insurance company would put up the money for the bonds, because Southern cities and states said they would no longer deal with a company that did. The city suddenly demanded cash, then announced that all bailed-out prisoners must appear in person at quickly scheduled court appearances. By then, many of the riders were scattered over the world. CORE had to choose between paying massive transportation costs or forfeiting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bail money. The NAACP Legal Fund quickly raised the money, mostly from wealthy Jewish contributors in New York -- and CORE survived to fight another day.
The next thing I read was a newspaper account of ''Death Certificate,'' a rap album by Ice Cube. The lyric of one song went this way:
Get rid of that devil, real simple.
Put a bullet in his temple.
Cause you can't get a nigga for life crew,
With a white Jew telling you what to do.
I read that the lyrics are personal, that Ice Cube has been feuding with a former manager who is Jewish. Someone asked the singer why he used the word ''Jew''? Ice Cube, who is 22, said it was because it rhymed with ''crew.''
I was not unduly offended by the words of Ice Cube. We can survive this, though he may not. Freedom of speech means free speech, not elegant speech or uplifting speech.
What I am offended by is the ignorance and the stupidity of those thoughts. The singer seems to have the same world view as David Duke, insofar as Jews are concerned. If Ice Cube or anyone is intent on fighting America's white racism with black racism, he ought at least to get the targets right, beginning with high WASP country clubs and then following Christianity down to born-again Ku Klux Klan dragons.
The rap singer probably had good reason for his rage -- at least until he got rich and had to fight managers for his percentage of the take. In this album he goes after Koreans, too -- ''Burning your store down'' -- and white men who lust after black women. They should be castrated, he chants.
And gays, too. ''True niggers ain't gay,'' he preaches.
I had just been reading of Bayard Rustin's planning of the great civil-rights march on Washington in August 1963. He built the event and the platform for Martin Luther King Jr. to preach ''I have a dream.'' Bayard Rustin was a homosexual -- and a true hero, who helped raise King to the mountaintop.
Where are Ice Cube and the other black racists going to take people who follow them? A leader of the Nation of Islam was invited to Nassau Community College on Long Island last week to talk about ''The Children of History.'' He promptly offered the crowd the opinion that Jews are ''the children of Satan.''
It's hard to take this stuff seriously. But actually following it leads DTC people into a dead end, walled in by ignorance and rage.
Richard Reeves is a syndicated columnist.