The mayor of a Virginia town is facing calls for his resignation after a post on Facebook about California Sen. Kamala Harris (D) that many called racially insensitive.
The town of Luray issued a statement rejecting racism after Mayor Barry Presgraves posted, “Joe Biden has just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick.”
The joke was posted to the mayor’s Facebook page on Sunday, but he quickly deleted it. In the intervening time, someone snapped a screenshot and shared it on social media.
Presgraves apologized for the post, but resolutely said that he would not resign.
“I want to make this very clear to everyone with absolutely no qualifications. I understand what I posted on social media was wrong, offensive and unbecoming,” Presgraves said the day after he posted the joke.
“Hell no, I’m not resigning. The people elected me and I have a few months more to serve,” he added.
Presgraves explained that he didn’t think the phrase was racist because he had eaten Aunt Jemima pancake syrup his entire life.
“I thought it was funny,” he added. “I thought it was humorous. I had no idea people would react the way they did.”
Community members called for Presgraves’ resignation and marched to protest his insistence on staying in office. Luray council member Leah Pence posted a statement excoriating the mayor.
“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,” Pence wrote. “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.”
Councilman Jerry Schiro offered similar comments but stopped short of calling for his resignation.
“All racial comments are inappropriate given the heightened sensitivity to racism in our country today,” Schiro said. “We are and should be held to a higher standard. I can assure the citizens of Luray that kind of thinking is not indicative of the council.”
Presgraves ran as an independent for the mayor’s seat in 2012.
Here’s a local news report about the furor over the Facebook post:
Protestors Call For Resignation Of Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves Over Racist Facebook Post