In defense of a good man who made a mistake: Bill Scott

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

There are things that make you shake your head, others that prompt a facepalm and a last category that leaves you saying “what the hell?” or words to that effect.

Put the idiocy going on in West Chester right now in the latter category.

For those of you who missed it, long-time Borough Council Member Bill Scott used the word “negro” in a discussion with an African-American woman, following a theatrical performance in the borough.

For this transgression, the entire rest of Borough Council has called for his resignation.

Thankfully, the death penalty was off the table.

This high dungeon of false outrage among holier than thou elected officials — and social media — has to give the county’s voters pause: do you really want to turn the county’s governance over to a mob given to knee-jerk reactions, rather than slow, deliberate consideration?

And of course, there’s the hypocrisy, too.

The Democrats are dealing with a slow simmering scandal involving alleged money laundering, influence peddling and such related to the beloved Mariner East II Pipeline (witness Gov. Tom Wolf’s utter refusal to even give lip service to demands for anything like a reasonable safety plan, and the apparent laundering of money through various local labor unions to elected and party officials to bat down opposition for the explosive project). We can go on from that to Rob McCord to Kathleen Kane among elected officials who really have done immoral (and illegal) things with much, much less in the way of outrage coming from the same sources.

But for Scott, using the word “negro” warrants a political death penalty?

In the immortal words of Ice Cube: “Check yourself, before you wreck yourself.”

Full disclosure: I’ve known Bill Scott for nearly two decades and managed his 2003 race for County Commissioner. I’ve known him to always fight for the underdog, for kids and those without a voice.

When Chester County was shoving a terrible agreement down the throat of Pocopson Township (where I live), expanding the county prison and putting a juvenile detention center/shelter in the complex, in exchange for the “gift” of the Barnard House (the biggest white elephant in the entire county, which has cost township taxpayers millions), Bill Scott was a vocal opponent of the project, one of the few outside of the township. His issue: the kids who would face emotional impact from essentially being sent to a prison-like environment.

There are countless other stories like this when it comes to Scott — he lives with his heart on his sleeve — and for the most part, that passion has served him and the people of Chester County well.

At other times, it’s a negative, as was the case with negro comment (I’ll note, I’ll keep using the term as I think we need to be clear, that while antiquated, it never was used as a slur in history, hence organizations such as the United Negro College Fund continue to this day — ironically, as it seems like a lot of minds on Borough Council are, in fact, going to waste).

Yes, it was a stupid mistake — keeping in mind that Scott is old enough to have been around when the term was used freely in the civil rights movement — and yes, he should have apologized immediately. When he realized that he had upset folks, he made a heartfelt apology.

Scott’s entire body of work, his time as a lone voice back in the days when Democrats didn’t rule West Chester, his support and encouragement of so many candidates over the years, has to be taken into account. His actions tell the content of his heart, not one admittedly stupid comment.

I’ll be the first to agree that racism remains an issue in Chester County — from those flying Confederate flags on some southwestern townships, to obvious cases of voter suppression within the last decade — African-Americans do have cause to be concerned and outraged (especially in this Trump-inspired era of White Nationalism).

But Bill Scott has always been part of the solution, not the problem. Running him out would confirm the worst fears of those seeing extreme political correctness as big a growing problem as hate groups (both share the common desire to regulate speech and thought).

There’s no one — no one — who hasn’t said something stupid or offensive. We hope for forgiveness of our trespasses. We must be willing to offer that forgiveness.

Let’s hope that West Chester Borough Council comes to its senses.

***

There were so many depressing things about Gov. Wolf’s visit to the county this past week — but his state of denial on the Mariner East II pipeline is somewhere between sad and frightening.

Folks in this county — and across the state — deserved answers and got none but the rhetorical back of the governor’s hand. This is a disaster waiting to happen, between Energy Transfer’s poor management and design, total lack of transparency on safety issues and frankly, hostile, thug-like behavior to those neighboring the project.

Something stinks to high heaven here, and we call on Attorney General Josh Shapiro to begin a full investigation.

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