Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, is expected to announce his running mate in coming weeks. He has said he will add a woman to the ticket, and several women of color are among those being considered.
Social media users, including some on the Luray Town Council, quickly condemned the statement, which had been removed from Presgraves’s account by Monday morning.
Presgraves, who is completing his second term and not running for reelection this fall, could not immediately be reached for comment. His colleagues on the town council are apparently having trouble reaching him as well.
Council member Jerry Dofflemyer, who is running for the nonpartisan, part-time mayoral position in the November election, said he was “saddened, disappointed and shocked” at the post.
“You don’t have to repeat it,” he told a reporter. “It was just inappropriate and disappointing. We are trying to get in touch with him. It’s been a sleepless night for me.”
Jerry Schiro, another council member, said he has plans to speak to Presgraves.
“All racial comments are inappropriate given the heightened sensitivity to racism in our country today,” Schiro said. Elected officials, especially, need to be mindful, he added. “We are and should be held to a higher standard. I can assure citizens of Luray that kind of thinking is not indicative of the council.”
Since the death of George Floyd beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, massive demonstrations against police brutality toward Black people have swept the nation. Black Lives Matter yard signs and banners have sprouted in small towns and large cities, and corporate and political entities have launched a widespread reckoning over race.
Quaker Foods North America dropped its Aunt Jemima image and name in mid-June, saying they recognize the origins of the character are based on the racial stereotype of a Black “mammy” who raised her master’s White children.
On Monday, Luray council member Leah Pence said she sent an email to Presgraves that morning and was waiting for a response.
“The racist Facebook post written by the Town of Luray Mayor, Barry Presgraves, today does NOT represent the views of The Luray Town Council. While I cannot speak for anyone else on the council, I personally condemn the statement he posted. #oneluray,” Pence wrote on her own Facebook page.
She later added a letter she sent to Presgraves Monday morning, calling for his resignation. “The comment you posted has a type of humor that has not been appropriate or funny in my lifetime or yours,” she wrote.
Commenters on that post, and elsewhere on social media, called for censure or removal of the mayor.
The Valley Region Caucus of the Virginia Young Democrats, for example, called on Twitter for his replacement. “The blatant racism that he posted on his Facebook is disgusting, and unacceptable. Idiotic racism can not be normalized,” the organization said.
Council member Joseph Sours said in a statement that he had spoken to Presgraves about the incident and urged him to publicly apologize, but also thought the community should give Presgraves a chance to make amends.
“While condemning harmful words or actions is justified, we must not make the mistake of immediately condemning the individual,” Sours wrote in his statement. “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.”
Presgraves won his last mayoral election in 2016 by 59 votes — winning 51 percent of the ballots cast. He worked for 31 years for Aramark at Shenandoah National Park, according to his biography on the town’s website.