A Virginia mayor is facing serious backlash for posting a racist and sexist joke on social media about the vice presidential candidates currently being considered to run on the 2020 ticket with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
The list of potential VP picks includes several Black women, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), and Barack Obama’s former national security advisor Susan Rice, among others.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Mayor of Luray Barry Presgraves wrote, “Joe Biden just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick.”
Despite parent company Quaker Oats in June announcing it would no longer use the Aunt Jemima name and logo due to the brand’s origins being rooted in Southern slavery culture and racial stereotypes, Presgraves refused to acknowledge that he did anything wrong. Having already announced that after three consecutive terms he is not seeking re-election as mayor, a position he’s held since 2008, Presgraves rejected calls that he step down.
“I saw it last week, and I thought it was funny,” Presgraves told the Page Valley News, saying he deleted it within a half hour. “Hell no. I’m not resigning. The people elected me and I have a few months more to serve.”
According to the report, prior to being deleted, the post garnered 47 comments, none of which were positive or attempted to defend the mayor.
Though he refused to say what inspired his post, The Babylon Bee, a satirical news website, last week posted a headline reading “Biden Selects Aunt Jemima as Running Mate.”
Several members of the Luray town council have publicly stated the need for Presgraves to step down.
“The comment you posted has a type of humor that not been appropriate or funny in my lifetime or yours,” wrote Councilwoman Leah Pence in an email to Presgraves she later posted on Facebook.
“While a resignation alone will not resolve the systemic subliminal racism that plagues our community, your resignation is imperative as we work towards ending racism in our community. You are accountable for your words and decisions as the leader of The Town of Luray and your recent actions have caused me and many citizens to lose faith and confidence in your capacity to effectively and justly serve as Mayor of The Town of Luray.”
Mayoral candidate and council member Jerry Dofflemyer on Sunday told the Daily News-Record that he had a “sleepless night” after reading the post.
“I was saddened and disappointed to see it. … It was inappropriate,” he said. “I was shocked to read it.”
The Town of Luray on Monday posted a statement to its Facebook page reading, in part: “The Town of Luray rejects racism and is committed to working together with the community through understanding, compassion, and opportunity. The Town Council will discuss the events leading to this statement at their August 10th meeting.”
But Presgraves appears steadfast in his unwillingness to heed the calls for his resignation.
“I thought it was humorous. I had no idea people would react the way they did,” Presgraves said. “I think people have gone overboard on this.”
[image via ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images]
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