When the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan march today, I hope Washingtonians stay home in droves. To react to the staged provocation of the Klan members would be to give them exactly what they want.

Undoubtedly, the sight of 100 Klan members marching down Constitution Avenue will push the fear and panic buttons of many people in the Washington area. For some, the Klan revives family tales of castration and fiery crosses, even personal memories of terrorization and lynchings.

But to react to the Klan's provocation by breaking store windows, screaming epithets or engaging in other violent acts, as happened in this city eight years ago, is an admission of impotence. And we are not powerless.

To yell and scream and rent the air by returning the hatred that the Klan represents is to deny the lessons we know from the past. This is not 1920, 1950 or even 1982. It is 1990, and we as a city should be beyond a potentially violent, emotional reaction to this march.

For, repugnant as they are, the Ku Klux Klan members have a constitutional right of "peaceable assemblage," and they should not be prevented from exercising it. The Washington Urban League's Diane Flanagan-Montgomery was right in defending the Klan's prerogative to march while also condemning "the provocation of violence and the venomous poison of racial hatred that have marked previous Klan demonstrations."

I was on hand eight years ago when another Klan group attempted to march in Washington. I saw the outraged counter-protesters, many times the 36 Klansmen, who became angry when the police removed the marchers from the streets and transported them to their rally. I heard the counter-protesters vent their frustration against police and against the presence of the Klan, and saw the violence and looting. It was a frightening occasion.

But today there is no valid statement that opponents of the Klan could make by acting out their rage. If there is violence in this city, the Klan wins.

Instead of throwing rocks, why not treat this provocation differently? Several options come to mind.

One option is to stay at home and let it be the march that nobody witnessed. D.C. mayoral candidate Sharon Pratt Dixon expressed this hope on Friday on radio station WPFW-FM: "We should not give {the Klan} the dignity of our attention."

Another option to those who feel they must see these hooded practitioners of racial supremacy is to stand quietly on the sidelines, observing but not reacting, except for the occasional giggle at these allegedly adult persons wearing Halloween costumes out of season. Whatever option taken, it is important to use this as an occasion to understand the historical dynamics of the Ku Klux Klan.

Many young black adults today do not know such basics of their history as the true interaction between the Klan and African Americans. Yet as the increased adoption of African paraphernalia and the messages in some rap songs indicate, there is a growing thirst on the part of many of them to know who they are and what factors have influenced them.

We should use this march as an opportunity to analyze the motivation of the Klan's message of white supremacy. Many African Americans understand that the extremist, malevolent message of the Klan is really just the harshest echo of a racism that permeates this country. While all racism is and remains unacceptable, the Klan's expression of its message is particularly loathsome.

It is important that we do not give Klan members more fodder for the sick, sick messages they are putting out. For the Klan serves to attract the disaffected who need a scapegoat to blame for their own inadequacies and troubles. This modus operandi, known in historical circles as fascism, has been around longer than most Klansmen and certainly longer than the young African Americans who find the vituperative message of the Klan anathema.

Instead of tossing stones, why not go to the Martin Luther King Memorial Library and read some books about this movement?

It is important that we understand that these are demented people who, yes, while dangerous, can only succeed if the extent of their dementia is realized. From its 1925 heyday when it put 40,000 people on the streets of this capital, the Klan has been reduced to rounding up 100 lost souls on a three-day weekend. That alone is a mark of how far the Klan has fallen, thanks to the significant gains made during the last decade.

Do not give Klan members a false importance. Do not give them a false power. Do not enhance them. Stay home. Ignore them. Laugh. Instead of going to the rally, go to church and pray for them, for they are indeed lost souls.