Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Economic development and civil rights by Attorney Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

"In December the City of St. Louis will reach a 25 year milestone – the law requiring that 25 percent of all city contracts be awarded to minority-owned businesses and 5 percent to women-owned businesses – which presents an opportune time to assess the economic status of African Americans in our city. 
On December 11, 1990, U.S. District Court Judge Clyde Cahill – the sole black federal district judge at the time – signed off on a consent decree that was the result of a lawsuit I filed against the City of St. Louis on behalf of the St. Louis Minority Contractors Association, as special counsel to the Washington, D.C.-based Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

Under the terms of the decree, the city established these percentages and a minority and women business enterprise (M/WBE) program through a mayoral executive order, which was to remain in effect until such time as a similar M/WBE ordinance was enacted by the Board of Aldermen. Because of vehement opposition from South Side aldermen, such an ordinance was never passed, with the decree thus remaining in effect through subsequent mayoral administrations renewing the executive order.
This law, which has become known in the construction industry simply as "The 25/5," established for the first time in the city's history an institutionalized mechanism for M/WBE inclusion. Prior to the decree, the level of minority and women business participation was negotiated on a project by project basis, with black politicians, like then Comptroller Virvus Jones, pressing the issue.
It is worth noting in this Ferguson era that the decree came about through the process and combination of litigation, agitation and negotiation. The lawsuit was filed in 1989, and as it was being litigated – with vigorous opposition from the city – protest actions were being carried out by the association, including one that entailed a group of us being arrested for blockading a construction site.
The protests reached a pinnacle point when then Mayor Vincent Schoemehl was confronted and verbally assaulted by demonstrators one morning in front of City Hall.  He dealt with the situation head on, inviting us to meet in his office that afternoon. After that rancorous and name-calling meeting and a series of follow up meetings, we were able to come to an agreement. We carved out the terms of the decree, crafting it from the best M/WBE programs in place in other cities.
More important than establishing this as the policy of the city, however, was the tone for minority economic inclusion it established for the region. It had an immediate ripple effect, with other institutions, like the St. Louis Public Schools, following suit to establish M/WBE mandates. Moreover, it staked out black economic development as a critical civil rights issue.
With the Ferguson Commission report noting our dire, racially disparate economic climate, we should pause at this 25-year juncture to evaluate the decree's impact and the effectiveness of its enforcement. The theory underlying it was that the development of minority businesses would create jobs for minorities, who would be employed by these businesses, and hence enhance the economic condition of the black community. 
Promoting black entrepreneurship was seen as key to what the founder of the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, U.S. Rep. Parren Mitchell, said was the final phase of the civil rights struggle – the struggle for economic parity. Arguably, until that phase is completed, black lives will remain devalued.y of 
Eric E. Vickers is an attorney, activist and former chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Eric Vickers, Executive Director, American Muslim Council, courtesy of C-SPAN

Muslim American Issues

Mr. Vickers discussed the American Muslim Council’s annual national convention, which took place in Washington this weekend, and Muslim American issues. Telephone lines were opened for audience. Watch the video/click the link

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Public accountability and power sharing, By Eric E. Vickers

    "Why are you here,” I inquisitively asked the woman who had sat down beside me at the church located two blocks north of the city’s racial dividing line – the boulevard name Delmar.  She was white, slightly middle-aged, and one of the many whites who predominated the packed meeting called by a coalition of organizations for the purpose of holding elected officials accountable for the recommendations of the Ferguson Commission. 

     The meeting, which began at 6:00 p.m. and concluded at almost exactly its schedule ending time of 7:00 p.m., was called a “Public Accountability” meeting.  The highlight was to be public commitments made by the Missouri Attorney General, the Mayor of St. Louis, and the St. Louis Police Chief to the agenda prescribed in the Ferguson Commission report.  These three – all of whom are white - had been publicly shamed by the coalition for failing to show up at the first Public Accountability meeting held several weeks earlier, and on this occasion the Attorney General and the Mayor showed and pledged their support for the report’s recommendations.

     “My minister is the reason why I am here,” she pleasantly responded, smiling and pointing to her pastor, who was also a woman - and also white – while mentioning that her church was located in the suburban city that happens to be the County’s wealthiest.    Although I wanted to probe more into her possible motives and motivation for caring about an issue that clearly affects blacks more than a white woman from the suburbs, the program commenced, saving me from the discomfort I felt in even calling her involvement into question.

     I freely admit to my bias of being instinctively initially suspicious of whites who involve themselves in the black cause, despite having personally experienced and interacted with many who were unequivocally committed to this cause - often times even more so than blacks - and despite knowing from history that whites have participated in the freedom struggle of African-Americans since at least the abolitionist movement.  Moreover, I know that they have throughout history played a vital role in the black struggle, and have even made the ultimate sacrifice, as illustrated by those slain during the civil rights movement.

     Still, in gazing out over the audience and thinking of the woman next to me, I wondered:  what inspired and vested them in the movement ignited by the Ferguson uprising?  Many were either middle-aged or senior citizens, and I could easily picture them as college campus activists during the sixties and seventies.  It was as though they were returning to finish the movement they had departed from to join the status quo following college.   I could sense their sincerity and their feeling re-energized.  Others were young, untainted by racial history, and refreshingly idealistic about fighting a just cause.

     I wondered, however, whether their involvement, despite being critical to creating the change called for by the Ferguson movement, could substitute for a movement predominated by blacks and led by blacks.  I found myself juxtaposing the quietly assertive spirit that permeated the church that evening with the brazenly audacious spirit evident when blacks packed a church in north St. Louis some sixteen years ago to rally to shut down a highway.  The latter invoked a feeling of black pride and self-empowerment, while the former, though arguably a more potent force for change, invoked a feeling of black dependency.

     Ideally, the two should co-exist.  That is, the movement to make black lives matter should be led by blacks and predominated by blacks because blacks’ feeling and realizing they have the power to change their condition has lasting value.  And conscientious whites should be involved not so much because of the impact their presence automatically brings to the table.  Rather, because their involvement gets us to the ultimate objective of power being shared." Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Eric E. Vickers is an attorney, activist and former chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Reconciliation at the crossroads by Eric E. Vickers, Guest Columnist, courtesy of St. Louis American

Rev. Starsky Wilson points to the empty seats that were supposed to be filled by Mayor Slay and several city, county and state officials during their accountability conference Sunday afternoon at Saint Louis University. Photo by Lawrence Bryant. Courtesy of Lawrence Bryant.
"The four-day Beloved Community Conference at Saint John's Church, whose theme this year was Radical Reconciliation, concluded on Sunday, November 1 with a Public Accountability Meeting, whose stated purpose was to "partner with local organizations to call on critical accountable bodies to articulate their plans to advance the recommendations of the ‘Forward Though Ferguson’ report."
The Sunday meeting, held on the campus of Saint Louis University and moderated by, was heavily attended – perhaps by more than a thousand – with an audience that appeared to be predominantly white, with many from the Christian ministry. Indeed, the meeting at moments had the feel of a revival, with a stirring rendition of the civil rights gospel anthem "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” sung during the meeting, and "This Little Light of Mine" sung to close it out.
The meeting was designed to extract "commitments" from the institutions of power to address the various areas of racial inequity highlighted in the Ferguson Commission report. Those who were invited and expected to make commitments were political leaders, corporate leaders, police chiefs, court officials and education leaders. Those who actually showed up were the heads of the two major corporate organizations, two state senators, three state representatives, an alderwoman, the St. Louis treasurer, and representatives of three St. Louis County school districts.
The no-shows included the Missouri Attorney General, any other statewide elected official, the mayor of the St. Louis, the St. Louis County executive, the St. Louis chief of police, the St. Louis County police chief, the police chiefs of the 56 county municipalities with police forces, any representative of the municipal court system, the superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools, and the superintendents of all St. Louis County school districts with the exception of Normandy.
The two corporate leaders who showed represented Civic Progress, the organization comprised of the 33 largest employers in the region, and the St. Louis Regional Chamber, whose corporate members account for nearly 30 percent of the region’s employment base (according to its website). These organizations made a commitment at the meeting to work to establish the creation of a Racial Equity Fund, a 25-year fund recommended by the Ferguson Commission report to provide funding for social organizations and projects oriented toward ameliorating the depressed socioeconomic conditions of the black community.
No commitment was made by – or asked of – these corporations to employ more blacks.
The elected officials who showed all committed to seeking a $15 per hour minimum wage, and the Normandy school superintendent committed to ending the disparity in the disciplining of black students versus white students, a point poignantly illustrated through a role-playing exercise by the high school students who addressed the gathering.
What clearly stood out the most at the meeting, however, was the absence of the invited white leaders who hold the critical strings of power. And to emphasize their absence, Wilson placed empty chairs on the stage. Their absence was so conspicuous that it seemed it was intended to send a message – that power concedes nothing without it being demanded.
This seems to be the crossroads now faced by the leaders and activists pushing the policy changes recommended by the Ferguson Commission report – whether to engage in radical action that causes a response to demands, or seek reconciliation.
Eric E. Vickers is an attorney, activist and former chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed."

Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Plans revealed for proposed STL stadium, courtesy of KSDK TV, St. Louis

Attorney Vickers is watching how the City of St. Louis will handle minority inclusion, especially that of African Americans. Photo is courtesy of Missouri Times.
"ST. LOUIS -- A proposed stadium to be built on the north St. Louis waterfront will do a lot more than just offer football games.

HOK architects have released new renderings of the stadium, which would include plazas, gardens, bike trails, a three-story brew pub and an observation deck overlooking the Mississippi River." >>Read more

My question: What is the minority inclusion in the nearly $1 billion project in North St. Louis going to be?  It will be interesting to see what the power brokers are up to? 

The St. Louis Mayor's office says "And the draft of a minority workforce inclusion plan promises to set aside nearly $3 million to train minority apprentices, monitor minority workforce targets and help minority businesses get and keep work on the project." >>Read more


Is this the usual empty promise? "I am watching you", Vickers


Eric E. Vickers, Civil Rights Attorney & Activist. Defender of the Weak and Downtrodden 
(I'll not hesitate to combine the power of litigation, protest, negotiation, Twitter, and Blogging to go after oppressors of African Americans).



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to structure a minority contractor loan fund, courtesy of St. Louis American

Attorney Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

"I read in The American about the establishment of the $10 million minority contractor loan fund. Congratulations to all involved. I know from talks with principals that many have been working diligently on this for some time, so I am glad to see it come to fruition.  

I have been involved in a lot of conversations about what it seems to take for a minority firm to succeed in this tough and discriminatory business environment. And with the establishment of this loan fund I want to share some thoughts on the criteria that should be used in lending. I noticed in the article that this fund will have a "relaxed qualifying criteria," which hopefully means that lack of collateral or credit scores will not be a barrier.  
First, I would concentrate on second- and third-generation minority firms. Business success requires mistakes, and I see many sound second- and third-generation minority contractors who have learned from the mistakes of their parents.  Also, they tend to be more educated about business and management, as the first generation consisted of the skilled craftsmen rather than back office managers.
Second, I would look to do contract financing, using contracts as the collateral for loans. I have not seen banks in Missouri do this, though I have seen banks in Illinois do a very effective job of lending on the basis of contracts.
hird, I would ask for references. The construction industry here is one where everyone pretty much knows each other. So you can find out from other contractors whether a contractor is reliable, does good work, and has integrity in how they operate their business.
Fourth, require that they have a short-term and long-term strategic plan for their business. Minority firms are generally so caught up in a week-to-week survival mode that they don't have time or the inclination to focus on the big picture of where they want their business to be five to 10 years from now. So let the loan allow them the opportunity and space to be able to think ahead.
Finally, make support services and resources available as part of the loan. Having that accounting, management and legal infrastructure in place is both vital to them being able to service the loan and to grow their business.  
Vickers is a St. Louis attorney and minority inclusion advocate". Courtesy of St. Louis American .  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Freedom history lesson, part two, By Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

Eric E. Vickers

"I enjoyed reading and was enlightened by the history of racism in Missouri that Adolphus Pruitt laid out in detail in the article "Past freedom movements in Missouri." However, I was disturbed by the manner in which he seemed to denigrate and even demean the demonstrations that have ensued since the killing of Michael Brown Jr.  


Actually, I was a bit shocked, because I think Pruitt has done an outstanding job in elevating the activist role of the local NAACP, particularly on economic issues, since assuming the presidency of the organization a few years ago.

His statement that "activists dusted off their gear, ministers darned their collars while career protesters shined their boots," reflects, I think, a lack of historical perspective. The "activists" I have seen involved in the Ferguson movement have been involved in the black struggle for decades, and their rising to the fore at this time only demonstrates their consistency and commitment. To refer to them as "career protesters" is not only insulting, it shows a lack of understanding of the need for the black community to have permanent warriors.  
What I found more disturbing, though, was the assertion that "organizing meetings sprung up like weeds, choking off meaningful networking and strategic planning needed to usher effective and measurable outcomes." That way of thinking seems to position the NAACP – a valued and essential black organization – as being behind the times, because it reflects a lack of appreciation of the new dynamic that began with the Ferguson uprising and that has swept the nation.  
It is important that the NAACP recognize that there has been a rejection of the old and traditional means of "networking" and working with the establishment powers to try to bring about a resolution of this crisis. The traditional solutions of, for example, calling on the Justice Department, or blacks registering to vote, are seen as important, though insufficient to address a problem of injustice and oppression that has persisted, notwithstanding these means long being employed. 
It is critical that the historical lessons, resources and activist weaponry of the NAACP be involved in this new movement, so it disturbs me that Pruitt thinks that the spontaneity and impromptu nature of this movement has choked off "effective and measurable outcomes." 
Finally, I found a bit of historical irony in his concluding the article with the account of the black man murdered and burned by a lynch mob in Sikeston in 1942, suggesting that the investigation and indictment by the Justice Department then provides the precedence for the solution to civil rights issues we are facing today. Had this course of action been sufficient to address civil rights issues, the movement sparked by Rosa Parks in 1955 would not have been necessary.  
And also, speaking frankly, had the NAACP been effective then in addressing the cry of black people for justice, the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Council - headed by Martin Luther King Jr. - and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee would not have been necessary.
Eric E. Vickers is a civil rights activist and attorney." Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Finding closure in Ferguson, courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"In order for the Ferguson movement to fulfill its promise and potential, it must find closure. That is, what began in August 2014 must become another catalytic event in the never-ending movement for a better society, which culminates in enduring change, if it is to have more than passing value. For Ferguson to have more than a footnote role in this movement, it must move past protest to milestone status.

The nation recently marked the 50th anniversary of a movement for change dating to an 1870 constitutional amendment, which we now sum up in one word: “Selma.” The 15th Amendment, which gave blacks the right to vote, grew out of the movement to end the wickedness of slavery that was eradicated by the 13th Amendment and the movement for human equality that is instilled in the 14th Amendment. All marked milestones in the societal advancement so eloquently articulated in the Declaration of Independence, whose words summon our most noble human qualities.

The march from Selma to Montgomery dramatized and brought to a pinnacle the denial of democracy to blacks by government-sanctioned and -sponsored brutality and political repression. The 1965 Voting Rights Act enacted shortly thereafter sprung from the Civil Rights Movement that traced its origin to Rosa Parks’ resistance in 1955, and that led to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a monumental change in American law that directly followed the milestone March on Washington in 1963, which changed forever the American attitude about race. From the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s, other movements began and spread wings to form a more perfect America.

Today a new movement is afoot to change the inequity and iniquity of the criminalization of black America that began in the ’80s. The so-called War on Drugs — an outgrowth of the conservative movement that was the backlash to the ’70s Black Power Movement — became the tool for incarcerating African-Americans in mass numbers, particularly black men, devastating the black family structure, creating a criminal subculture, and turning cops into capturers. Gangsta rap was born, with lewd and loveless lyrics ringing through the black community, replacing the anthem: “Say it Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

When the shots rang out killing Michael Brown, this condition and affliction found its voice in a national movement, awakening a political consciousness in the millennial generation that had become mired in a materialist mindset. It has made protest more popular than the clubs and malls, and has imbedded in this generation a social activism shaping their lives and this country.

They know first-hand and from the Department of Justice Ferguson report the problem of police who are the product and enforcers of a system of injustice. They also know they live in a world where the pursuit of happiness and their very lives are threatened both by the police and gunfire in the streets. Although distinct, they are interrelated problems that must both be solved for black lives to matter.


For a previous generation, the march from Selma to Montgomery marked the symbolic culmination of protests for black voting rights, with the movement for those and other rights continuing through pressure on the government and personal and collective actions springing from the socially conscious mindset the movement had spawned.
Similarly, this generation should bring to a close the serial protesting and concentrate on a national march on the scale of Selma on the city whose name 50 years from now should symbolize a milestone change in the American criminal justice system and culture of violence. When a half-century from now audiences depart theaters after watching “Ferguson,” they should feel proud of that turning point moment in our history that created a more just and loving society.
Eric E. Vickers is a lawyer in St. Louis."

Eric Vickers, Civil Rights Attorney & Activist. Defender of the Weak and Downtrodden (I'll not hesitate to combine the power of litigation, protest, negotiation, Twitter, and Blogging to go after oppressors).



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ferguson must move from protest to milestone by Eric E. Vickers

Attorney Eric E. Vickers
In order for the Ferguson movement to fulfill its promise and potential, it must find closure. That is, what began in August 2014 must become another catalytic event in the never-ending movement for a better society, which culminates in enduring change, if it is to have more than passing value.

For Ferguson to have more than a footnote role in this movement, it must move past protest to milestone status. 
The nation recently marked the 50th anniversary of a movement for change dating back to an 1870 constitutional amendment, which we now sum up in one word:  “Selma.”  The 15th Amendment, which gave blacks the right to vote, grew out of the movement to end the wickedness of slavery that was eradicated by the 13th Amendment and the movement for human equality that is instilled in the 14th Amendment.
All marked milestones in the societal advancement so eloquently articulated in the Declaration of Independence, whose words summon our most noble human qualities.
The march from Selma to Montgomery dramatized and brought to a pinnacle the denial of democracy to blacks by government-sanctioned and -sponsored brutality and political repression. The 1965 Voting Rights Act arose from the Civil Rights Movement that traced its origin to Rosa Parks’ resistance in 1955. That led to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a monumental change in American law that directly followed the milestone March on Washington in 1963. It changed forever the American attitude about race. 
Since then, other movements began and spread wings to form a more perfect America. 
Today a new movement is afoot to change the inequity and iniquity of the criminalization of black America that began in the 1980s. The so-called War on Drugs – an outgrowth of the conservative movement that was the backlash to the ‘70s Black Power Movement – became the tool for incarcerating African Americans in mass numbers, particularly black men.
This action has devastated the black family structure. It has created a criminal subculture and has turned cops into capturers. Gangsta rap was born, with lewd and loveless lyrics ringing through the black community, replacing the anthem: “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud.”  
With the killing of Michael Brown Jr., this condition and affliction found its voice in a national movement. It has awakened a political consciousness in the millennial generation that had become mired in a materialist mindset. It has made protest more popular than the clubs and malls, and has imbedded in this generation a social activism that shapes their lives and this country.
They know first-hand (and from the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report) the problem of police who are the product and enforcers of a system of injustice. They also know they live in a world where the pursuit of happiness and their very lives are threatened both by the police and gunfire in the streets. 
Although distinct, they are interrelated problems that must both be solved for black lives to matter.
For a previous generation, the march from Selma to Montgomery marked the symbolic culmination of protests for black voting rights. The movement for those and other rights continued through pressure on the government and personal and collective actions springing from the socially conscious mindset the movement had spawned.  
Similarly, this generation should bring to a close the serial protesting and concentrate on a national march (on the scale of Selma) on the city whose name 50 years from now should symbolize a milestone change in the American criminal justice system and culture of violence. 
When a half-century from now audiences depart theaters after watching “Ferguson,” they should feel proud of that turning-point moment in our history that created a more just and loving society. Courtesy of St. Louis American.
Eric E. Vickers is an activist, attorney and former chief of staff for state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Black protest and white backlash, courtesy of St. Louis American

"During a lively and intense discussion about Ferguson on the longstanding local PBS show “Donnybrook,” the show’s moderator and provocateur, Charlie Brennan, suggested that the movement had “jumped the shark.”

Although I was not familiar with that phrase, it was clear from the context that he was arguing that the movement had begun its descent. I later learned that the phrase, which grew out of a seventies TV sit-com, means, according to Wikipedia, “the moment when a brand, design, franchise or creative effort’s evolution declines.” Although I agree with those on the show who disagreed with Brennan, I think that if this movement to change the criminal justice system and ameliorate the condition of black youth is to continue, we have to acknowledge and address something that is more threatening to it than an evolutionary decline – white backlash

While today we see the nation embracing and glorifying in movies the Civil Rights Movement, arguably, we are in this century faced with Ferguson because of the untold story of the white backlash that followed the movement. For the history that followed is the history of the clock being turned back.

America achieving an equal and integrated educational system through bussing; opposition to diverse residential areas by white flight to the suburbs; and the systematic appointment of judges ideologically intent on undoing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It is the history of a war on urban America, with the elimination of vital social programs and the incarceration of black men in unprecedented numbers. It was this backlash that caused America to be delayed electing a black president, despite racism becoming un-American and unfashionable as far back as the 1971 sitcom “All in the Family,” and despite a black president being portrayed as a realistic possibility as far back as the 1972 movie “The Man.” For the Civil Rights Movement generation, Barak Obama’s election was something they never imagined, while for the generation that followed King, his election was just a long time coming. 

That generation naively thought that the rightness of the Civil Rights Movement would cause it to be self-sustaining, and that the panoply of civil rights laws enacted during the course of the movement would be self-enforcing. It did not foresee that the fight against the white backlash to the movement would be as formidable as the fight of the movement. The millennial Ferguson demonstrators need to be aware of the power of this backlash, and should take a page from history to try to avert it. We see this backlash manifesting itself now in the call for prosecutors and courts to be more repressive with mandatory sentencing laws, and in the response of whites to black-on-black murders being that this negates the legitimacy of any protest about murders by white police. What creates the backlash is whites misperceiving blacks as demonstrating without seeking solutions, engaging in violent protests, and not taking responsibility for their community’s condition. 

There is a difference between white resistance and white backlash. The resistance to the changes the Ferguson movement seeks is to be tenaciously fought against by the protesters. The backlash is to be fought against by having a movement grounded in principles, guided by goals, and that seeks change both outside of and within the black community." Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Attorney Eric E. Vickers, guest columnist

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bigotry, Islam and free speech by Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

Eric E. Vickers
Robinson was wrong about ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and Muhammad, By Eric E. Vickers For The St. Louis American.

Although I am one of Eugene Robinson’s biggest fans, as a black man who adopted Islam as my religious faith more than 30 years ago while in law school, I am deeply disappointed in his recent column about the terrorist attack on the French publication Charlie Hebdo, because it reflects the double-standard thinking that only exacerbates animosity towards Muslims.

On the one hand, he argues that “lampooning the Prophet Muhammad” is permissible because “the right to free speech must encompass the right to offend without fear or fervor,” while on the other hand he rightly and correctly argued that radio host Don Imus was not entitled to any free speech protection – or his job – for his racist words. Robinson argued that Imus should be taken off the air for his racists remarks, yet argued that Charlie Hebdo’s offensive portrayal of Muhammad was protected speech because “obnoxiousness is grounds for denunciation but not for censorship.” 

As a Pulitzer Prize winner, he certainly knows that there is no such thing as absolute free speech, and that speech that is hateful can constitute a crime in this country. Consequently, I am left to wonder why he thinks that speech vilifying Muslims is acceptable free speech, while speech vilifying African Americans is not. It seems that this stems from ignorance – the breeding ground of hate – about Islam, as reflected in his statement that “many mainstream Muslims consider comic portrayals of their prophet to be offensive.” Actually, every Muslim on the planet – all 1.2 billion – considers any portrayal of Muhammad offensive. Islam prohibits any picture or image of the Prophet because it violates the basic tenet of the faith that no human being, including Muhammad, is to be deified and worshiped. Thus Robinson needs to understand that an attack on Muhammad is an attack on the sensibilities of one-fifth of the world’s population, and that while condemning terrorist attacks made in retaliation for hate speech directed at him is a no-brainer for the Muslim community, there are, and always will be, those Muslims who consider themselves guardians of the faith.

And despite the Muslim world’s condemnation of their terrorist means and the Qur’an’s explicit teaching that Muslims are to “argue with them [critics] in the most kindly manner,” they will, unfortunately, use any means necessary to guard against Muhammad being ridiculed. If we want to live in a world of harmony between the races and religions, then we cannot condone either prejudice or bigotry under the guise of free speech. Courtesy of St. Louis American.