WEST CHESTER—Borough Councilman Bill Scott continues to take heat for racially insensitive remarks he reportedly made over the summer.
Scott has admitted to using the outdated term “Negro,” while also commenting on a black actress’s skin color and asking her to sing the racially charged song “Mammy” after a play performance at People’s Light theater.
Prior to Tuesday's Borough Council meeting, about a dozen demonstrators held a couple of homemade signs in the municipal building's parking lot, and said they planned to continue to protest at council work and voting session meetings until Scott steps down.
Five of Scott’s fellow members on council have publicly called for Scott to resign, and he was publicly censured by the board in September.
One of those involved, Trevor Budd of West Chester, who said he is supporting the working people in West Chester by taking part. “Bill Scott’s comments are an attempt to divide the working class,” Budd said. “I’ll be coming (to protest) for however long he’s here.”
Janice Berry of Westtown said there must be accountability.
“We have to be careful of what we say when we’re representing the public,” she said.
WCHE-AM radio personality Kyle Hudson, who attends and live streams many Borough Council meetings, agreed that Scott had to be held accountable for what he said.
“What Bill Scott did was wrong, it’s that simple,” Hudson said. “People have to take responsibility for their actions. It’s not a personal thing. It’s not even about politics. It’s about right and wrong.”
Resident Nick Allen, who is running unopposed in the Second Ward for a seat on council, which would make him a colleague of Scott's, said only that he was taking part to listen to what people had to say about the matter.
“I’m here to support and listen to people in our community who are hurt by Bill’s comments and actions.”
Prior to Tuesday’s work session, Scott said he would prefer to not comment.
According to sources who have discussed the matter, Scott attended a performance of the play "Mud Row" at the People's Light theater company in East Whiteland on July 26.
The play’s title refers to a neighborhood in West Chester’s East End historically populated by black residents. There are different theories on where exactly Mud Row was and how it earned its name – perhaps a muddy place around the local railroad tracks or an area where sewage would back up – but it symbolized a place some said no one had been interested in cleaning up because of its majority black population.
Mayor Dianne Herrin, a longtime advocate of improving racial relations and understanding in the borough, had organized the trip and invited various community members to attend, as had the leadership of the Charles Melton Community Center, located near where the play by Dominique Morisseau is set. More than 125 residents made the trip to the theater to see the play, including Scott, Herrin, and other.
After each performance, cast members would routinely join with people in the audience for a “talk back” discussion about the play in the theater lobby. It was there that Scott began speaking with one of the actors, according to those who have been told about the encounter.
According to one who witnessed the exchange, Scott is said to have commented on the light complexion of the person’s skin, and used the antiquated term "Negro" to refer to their race. The actor was visibly shaken.
Pressing on, Scott said that maybe the actor could remove their stage makeup to prove to him they were, indeed, black.
“If you really are black, sing ‘Mammy’ for me,” Scott told the actor, referring to the song made popular by singer Al Jolson in the film “The Jazz Singer.” Jolson often performed the song in black face, a particularly repulsive and cartoonish racist trope. In addition, the term "Negro" is fairly offensive to many in the black community, as is any attempt to discuss the shade or color of a black person's skin, as that is viewed as a private matter.
Scott’s comments were reported not only by the person who overheard them, but by three others who said they had been told of them. Scott himself did not deny making them.