Barry Presgraves is a mayor you've probably never heard of from a town you likely didn't know existed who is not planning on running for re-election. None of that means that the public is interested in looking past a recent racist social media post.
First, let's start by introducing you to Mayor Presgraves.
He has been the mayor since 2008, but served on the city council before that. Presgraves has lived in Luray, Virginia (current population under five thousand) his whole life.
Barry Presgraves / Facebook
Mayor Presgraves posted a Facebook status that commented on Biden's potential VP selections. Right now, things seem to be narrowed down to a final four women. Three of the four—Kamala Harris, Susan Rice and Karen Bass—are Black.
That means there is a 75% chance that Biden's VP selection will be a Black woman; something that Presgraves noted with this now-deleted status:
Barry Presgraves / Facebook
If Hollywood/TV representations were to be believed, this sort of humor would totally be a big hit in a small Southern town with a 92% White population. But this is the real world, it's 2020 and we're not doing that anymore.
That's not to say people aren't racist anymore—obviously. But the blowback is much more likely to be fast & furious.
The post itself was met with a bit of a cringe, but once screenshots of it got out to other social media platforms, things really got going.
Not only did people not find it funny, some called for his resignation.
Please join me in calling the Luray Town offices: (540)743-5511 And demand that Mayor Barry Presgraves resign or… https://t.co/ZlqqFHN2Fu— LMB27 (@LMB27)1596500720.0
The current mayor of Luray, Virginia, Barry Presgraves, just posted this. Please feel free to join me in calling… https://t.co/CSHbeHqaDq— Becca Marshall (@Becca Marshall)1596420473.0
‘Barry Presgraves, Goodbye… It is very disappointing that the Mayor of Luray would go to this LEVEL! I never commen… https://t.co/KIjrKytsBg— Jeff E. Schapiro (@Jeff E. Schapiro)1596543572.0
We don't mean just random people on Twitter when we talk about backlash. Members of the town council Presgrave formerly served on spoke out as well.
Council member Ron Vickers told outlets that Presgraves doesn't speak for him, the council, or the town. "The town of Luray is better than that." he said.
Member Jerry Schiro made a statement pointing out that racism is already terrible, but it stings worse coming from an elected official as they are—and should be—held to a higher standard if they are to serve the people.
Councilwoman Leah Pence took to her social media page to not only denounce the statement, but to lend her voice in support of people calling for Mayor Presgraves to resign.
She even published an email she sent to him.
"I am writing to strongly urge you to resign over a racist comment you made on Facebook. The comment you posted has a type of humor that not been appropriate or funny in my lifetime or yours. While a resignation alone will not resolve the systemic subliminal racism that plagues our community, your resignation is imperative as we work toward 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."
Then the town's Facebook page made an official public notice rejecting racism.
There has been a small amount of support for the mayor, mostly in the form of people who say that others just didn't get the joke. According to them, the punchline wasn't supposed to be the Black women who were referred to in a derogatory way.
Rather, the joke was intended to be a commentary on Joe Biden's flagging mental acuity—implying that he couldn't tell the three Black women apart from one another or Aunt Jemima.
When asked if he would step down, Presgraves responded:
"Hell no I'm not resigning."
He also brushed off the idea that calling Black women Aunt Jemima is racist because, "I ate Aunt Jemima all my life!"