The Legacy of Detroit Activist Ron Scott

POST BY Mark Fancher Racial Justice Staff Attorney

Those in this country with ancestral roots in traditional Africa still revere and adore their warriors, kings, queens and master teachers. When these special people leave this realm and take their places among the ancestors, those who loved them feel the earth tremble. At the moment of transition, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Chokwe Lumumba, Rosa Parks, Ahmad Rahman and many others caused a figurative, if not literal shifting of tectonic plates for those who stand on the ground that they fought hard to liberate.

This happened again a few days ago when local activist Ron Scott took flight and found his way into the arms of God.

Read more about ACLU's Campaign to End Police Abuse & Discrimination.

Ron was very much on my mind on the day of his passing. On that day, I read with great amusement an anecdote recounted in the memoirs of Detroit civil rights leader Arthur Johnson that described a tense encounter between him and a then-21-year-old Ron Scott.

At the time, Johnson was a Detroit Public Schools administrator who met with Ron and a group of concerned parents. Because Ron found Johnson’s responses to be unsatisfactory, he called the administrator a “lackey.” Johnson ended the meeting abruptly and dismissed the delegation from his office. This was one of many such exchanges Ron was to have with numerous people in authority. This was not because Ron was confrontational. It was because Ron Scott was honest. Some disagreed with his then-assessment of Johnson and other matters, but his opinions were always his honest opinions.

For Ron and others who came of age in and around the Black Panther Party and the broader movement for Black Power, honesty in pursuit of the people’s liberation was an indispensable requirement. There was no place for “spin” and “messaging” when speaking to those in power. They got the raw, naked truth. If police officers behaved like pigs as they terrorized black communities, then there was no hesitation in calling them pigs—to their faces. But with the passage of time, and the changes wrought by liberation struggles, Ron’s honesty led him to recognize the complexity of the system he resisted.

He understood institutional dynamics and the fact that law enforcement agencies were made up of individuals—some bad, most good, but all inexorably drawn into a pattern of systematized conduct that was destroying communities of color.

In his tireless pursuit of reform of law enforcement, Ron played the unique role of intermediary between the nameless, faceless “wretched of the earth” as Frantz Fanon called them, and police department brass. Police administrators not only knew Ron, they genuinely respected him because they knew he was the real deal.

Read more about ACLU's Campaign to End Police Abuse & Discrimination.

When he spoke of the conduct of officers on the street, they knew he spoke not from theory, but from first-hand accounts provided to him by victims. His credibility was further enhanced by the fact that he was 100 percent genuine and pure. His work was not motivated by personal political or financial aspirations. He was driven only by a love for people.

For my part, I trusted Ron implicitly. I never breathed easily about any police reform initiative until it received Ron’s seal of approval. During tense public meetings about police issues, my stress level dropped precipitously when out of the corner of my eye I noticed Ron walk into the room. With only a knowing exchange of glances I always knew he had my back.

I feel sorrow for those of us who will miss Ron, but great joy that he now enjoys his well-deserved Heavenly reward. I don’t think he would want any of us to mourn long, but to instead press forward and do everything we can to end the mounting black body count resulting from police violence.

He would want us to continue his quest for zones of peace in communities plagued by violence. He would want us to walk the bridges he built between unlikely partners, and to assemble new avenues of racial and political understanding.

VIVA RON SCOTT! VIVA!

I feel sorrow for those of us who will miss Ron, but great joy that he now enjoys his well-deserved Heavenly reward.

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