Virginia mayor urged to resign after saying Biden picked ‘Aunt Jemima’ as his running mate

James Crump
The Singing Tower in Luray, Virginia: (The Walk of Dreams - YouTube)
The Singing Tower in Luray, Virginia: (The Walk of Dreams - YouTube)

A Virginia mayor has been urged to resign after he allegedly wrote that “Joe Biden has just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick,” on his Facebook page.

Barry Presgraves, the mayor of Luray, Virginia, posted the comment on his Facebook page over the weekend, but swiftly deleted it after backlash from residents and local officials.

The post came as presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden, is reportedly finalising his choice for his running mate, with several black women mooted as contenders, according to CNN.

Quaker Oats also announced earlier this year that it would retire the Aunt Jemima brand later in 2020, after acknowledging that its “origins are based on a racial stereotype”.

Earlier this week, in an email to Mr Presgraves, Luray councilwoman Leah Pence urged the mayor to resign, and wrote: “The comment you posted has a type of humour that not been appropriate or funny in my lifetime or yours.”

She added: “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.”

She added: “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.”

According to local station WHSV3, councillor Ron Vickers added: “Barry does not speak for the council and does not speak for me.”

Mr Presgraves initially refused to apologise for the post, and told Page Valley News: “I had no idea people would react the way they did. I think people have gone overboard on this....It’s an election year.”

However, councilman Joey Sours told the station that he spoke to Mr Presgraves, “to encourage him to publicly apologise for sharing the meme, regardless of his intent due to the resultant impact, and to make every effort to rectify the situation”.

He added: “I care deeply for the town of Luray and its citizens and I care for the mayor whom I’ve worked alongside for many years. Although the comments were not my own, I apologise to all who were hurt by them,” the councilman added.

Mr Presgraves later apologised for his post, and wrote on his Facebook page: “I posted a picture on 8-1-20, I am sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings lesson learned. It was not my intent to hurt anyone. I took it to be humorous. Sorry!”

Although he urged for Mr Presgraves to apologise, Mr Sours added that he believes the mayor should not be individually condemned for his language, and said doing so “only cements divisiveness as it prevents a means for dialogue that can bring healing and closure to the situation”.

“This one comment need not define the man nor our community. This is a time for forgiveness and grace – something each of us needs to both give and receive every day. This is something that we will get past,” Mr Sours’ s statement read.

A protest has been organised for Saturday, where residents will meet outside the W Luray Recreation Centre to demand action is taken against Mr Presgraves, who announced earlier in the year that he will not be seeking reelection in November.

According to Mr Sours, the town’s council will discuss the incident at their meeting on 10 August, but he confirmed they do not have the power to impeach the mayor.

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Quaker Oats removes Aunt Jemima image ‘based on a racial stereotype’