Angela Rye, Amanda Seales and others are out to defend the numerous potential Black women Joe Biden may select as his running mate after a mayor in Virginia said the Democratic candidate for president “just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick.”
In an open letter, dozens of Black women activists and leaders denounce Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves racist comments and call out others who have made racist attacks against Black women in contention to become Biden’s running mate.
“Black women are many things. We are business executives, political strategists and elected officials, philanthropists, and activists. We are health and wellness practitioners,” the letter reads. “We are entertainers and faith leaders. We are wives, mothers, daughters, educators, and students. We set and shift culture. We build power and we are powerful.”
It continues: “We are the highest propensity voters in this nation. We are a coalition of Black women leaders, who, in this inflection point of the Black liberation movement, where people around the world are galvanized to action, know that the time for Black women in the United States is now.”
“We are not your Aunt Jemimas,” the letter adds. “The use of the racist myth of a happy, Black servant portrayed as a happy domestic worker loyal to her White employer is not lost on us. While some of the relentless attacks on Black women and our leadership abilities have been more suggestive than others, make no mistake--we are qualified and ambitious without remorse.”
The statement goes on to cite trailblazing Black women, like Shirley Chisholm and Angela Davis, who similarly had to deal with racist criticism during their fight to make the world a better place.
For full context, Presgraves, who is on his final term as mayor and not up for reelection, recently posted on his Facebook page, “Joe Biden just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick.”
There have been calls for him to resign. According to WTOP, Leah Pence, a Luray Town Council member, wrote, “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 has not been appropriate or funny in my lifetime or yours.”
On Monday (August 3), Pence claims she sent an email to Presgraves the same day the Facebook comment was made 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,” she wrote on her FB page. “While I cannot speak for anyone else on the council, I personally condemn the statement he posted. #oneluray.”
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. “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.”
Aunt Jemima stems from a character based on the racial stereotype of a Black “mammy” who raised her master’s White children. Quaker Foods North America, whose syrup product featured the racist depiction, dropped the name in mid-June.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has announced that he will choose a woman as his running mate. No decision has been made publicly as of yet.