A Virginia mayor is facing requests for his resignation in a Facebook post in which he said that Joe Biden “just announced Aunt Jemima” as his running mate.
Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves posted the comment last weekend on his Facebook page. The comment was condemned by a council member, city officials and other residents before he removed the same weekend.
Luray is located about 90 miles west of Washington, DC
Biden appointed California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday.
A number of black women were on Biden̵
Presgraves apologized to a city council on Monday night.
“I want to make this very clear to anyone without absolute qualifications,” Presgraves said. “I understand what I posted on social media was wrong, offensive and limitless.”
Presgraves, 77, added that it does not reflect what is in his heart.
“I also want to make a direct apology to all people of color and women. Letting go of degrading and worn-out racial stereotypes like humor is not fun,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “I now fully understand how harmful it is and I can and will do better and we can all do better. We must.”
He ended his statement by saying, “From my heart I am sorry and humbly ask for your forgiveness and your mercy.”
Barbara Veney, 69, a resident of Luray, spoke to Pregraves directly at the meeting.
“I have been here all my life. Almost 70 years. And today I am injured,” she said.
Veney told the Presgraves that she was not there to tear him down or speak ill of him, but that she must stand up for what is right. Veney said her father was black and white, her mother was Indian and black and that she was not taught to be racist. She learned “what comes out of your mouth can hurt and you have to be careful what you say because words hurt”, she said.
“We need someone with positive thinking who will shape this society. No more sharing,” she said. “For us to move on … I ask you today, Mr. Mayor, to go down in love – because I love you – and do the right thing.”
Quaker Foods North America dropped its aunt Jemima image and name in mid-June, saying they recognize the character’s origins are based on “a racist stereotype” of a black “mommy” who raised her master’s white children.
Councilwoman Leah Pence sent an e-mail to Presgrave last Monday morning urging him to resign.
Pence told Presgraves that the comment he posted “has a kind of humor that has not been appropriate or funny” in any of their lives, according to a copy of the email she posted on her Facebook page.
“While a resignation alone will not solve the systemic subliminal racism that plagues our society, your resignation is imperative as we work to end racism in our society,” Pence wrote, adding that Presgraves is responsible for his words and decisions.
She also told Presgraves that his recent actions have caused many residents of the small town to “lose faith and trust” in his ability to “effectively and fairly” act as mayor.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page last Monday, the city of Luray said they “reject racism” and are committed to working with society through understanding, compassion and opportunity. The statement did not name Presgraves, but said the city council would discuss the events that led to the statement at its meeting Monday night.
Presgraves did not immediately return a request for an interview Thursday. He told Page Valley News last Monday that he would not resign.
“Hell no, I’m not resigning,” he told the newspaper. “The people chose me and I have a few more months to earn.”
Presgraves, who is not running for re-election, told the newspaper that he did not anticipate that his comment would be met with backlash.
“I thought it was humorous,” he said. “I had no idea that people would react the way they did. I think people have gone overboard on this … It’s an election year.”