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Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, makes it sound not just reasonable but even inspiring.

The Million Man March of blacks he proposes to head in Washington Oct. 16 will, he says, "declare to the world that we are serious, sober, committed, disciplined, dedicated to the proposition that as men we must atone to God for our failure to accept our responsibility of being the heads of our families and the builders of our community."The message would deserve automatic applause if it were not for the messenger. Consider Farrakhan's track record. As Scripps Howard News Service notes, Farrakhan is someone who has also said that Christians practice hate, that "murder and lying comes easy for white people," that blacks should be allowed to establish a separate state or territory, that "we're coming after all these Negroes that are the pawns of white people," that " we will punish you (a journalist) with death" and that Adolf Hitler was "a very great man."

By some estimates, more than 500,000 African-American men are expected to stream into Washington from all parts of the country. That would make next Monday's march the largest gathering of any ethnic group ever in this country and maybe the largest of any kind.

But quality matters more than quantity. Farrakhan's march in Washington should be judged not on the basis of the number of participants but by how much or how little venom it generates.