Town of Luray ‘rejects racism’ and plans to discuss mayor’s controversial Facebook post

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 7:37 PM EDT
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LURAY, Va. (WHSV) - Following a racially-insensitive Facebook post allegedly written by the mayor of Luray, the town issued a statement saying Luray rejects racism and is committed to working together with the community through understanding, compassion, and opportunity.

Over the weekend, a social media post appeared online by Mayor Barry Presgraves who allegedly wrote: “Joe Biden has just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick.”

The post appears to have since been deleted, but not before a screenshot was captured and widely shared by users online.

Former vice president Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and has suggested he would be choosing a woman for his vice-presidential running mate.

Presgraves could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Councilwoman Leah Pence called for Presgraves to resign.

"The comment you posted has a type of humor that not been appropriate or funny in my lifetime or yours," said Pence, who shared her letter to Presgraves 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."

This morning at 8:50am I wrote this email to The Mayor of Luray, Barry Presgraves. The type of post that the Mayor...

Posted by Leah Pence for Political Office on Monday, August 3, 2020

Councilman Joey Sours said he spoke with Presgraves since the comments were posted.

"I spoke with the Mayor personally to encourage him to publicly apologize for sharing the meme, regardless of his intent due to the resultant impact, and to make every effort to rectify the situation," Sours said in a statement to WHSV. "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 apologize to all who were hurt by them. "

Sours added while condemning harmful words or actions is justified, we must not make the mistake of immediately condemning the individual.

"That 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," Sours' statement read.

“Barry does not speak for the council and does not speak for me,” Councilman Ron Vickers said.

Councilman Jerry Dofflemyer, who will run against Presgraves for his reelection, said he is very disappointed in his colleague’s actions.

According to a public notice, the Town Council will discuss the events leading to this statement at their August 10th meeting. You can read the notice here.

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