A post written by Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker on her Facebook page has triggered an onslaught of nationwide commentary and media coverage.
The original post, which went live Wednesday morning, said: “Charlottesville: The beautiful-ugly it is. It rapes you, comforts you in its c** stained sheet and tells you to keep its secrets.”
The post was temporarily removed by Facebook and then put back up.
A few hours later, Walker posted a longer version:
“Charlottesville: The beautiful-ugly it is. It lynched you, hung the noose at city hall and pressed the souvenir that was once your finger against its lips. It covers your death with its good intentions. It is a place where white women with Black kids collects signature for a white man who questions whether a black woman understands white supremacy. It is destructively world class. White people say that it is a place where gentrification started with the election of a Black women in 2017 and because of white power, a lie becomes #facts. Its daily practice is that of separating you from your soul. Charlottesville is void of a moral compass. It’s as if good ole [Thomas Jefferson] is still cleverly using his whip to whip the current inhabitants into submissiveness. Charlottesville rapes you of your breaths. It suffocates your hopes and dreams. It liberates you by conveniently redefining liberation. It progressively chants while it conservatively acts. Charlottesville is anchored in white supremacy and rooted in racism. Charlottesville rapes you and covers you in sullied sheets.”
Walker did not respond to a request for comment.
City spokesman Brian Wheeler said the city did not have a comment at this time, but added that he had “every reason to believe the posts are genuine” and that Walker’s page was not hacked.
The day before Walker made the postings, the City Council had met for a work session about city credit card usage and expenditure policies. During the meeting, Walker proposed that the council vote on giving individual councilors an allowance that could be used for various measures, including bringing in guest speakers and compensating advisory group participants.
“I would like to not have to ask you all every time I would like to do something,” Walker said. “If I want to bring in a person and I felt that she was suitable and could contribute to a conversation … that I … or any councilor in the future, and any of you all should be able to bring a person that you see could add value to the conversation to the table.”
“I don’t want to be hindered,” Walker added. “Is there space for innovation or for us to bring things to the table?”
Not all councilors agreed with Walker’s proposals, including Lloyd Snook, who said: “I don’t think we should be doing [any spending] at all without approval of council.”
Walker’s fellow council members weighed in on the postings.
“[My] reaction is that the language [in the post] was harmful and I’ve heard from many community members who are survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence who found the language triggering and harmful,” said Councilor Michael Payne.
Payne said the national attention the post has received has distracted from deeper conversations about necessary change.
“As long as we’re focused on personal attacks, interpersonal conflict and a polarized media circus on social media, we are not moving forward with the policy change our community needs,” he said.
Snook said he was not sure what he could “comfortably say” regarding Walker’s posts, and said “she is clearly speaking about, and from, a pain that she feels that I can never feel.”
He cited a post he made on his personal Facebook page, in which he quoted Greek author Aeschylus and poet Randall Jarrell to present differing thoughts on pain:
“He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God,” Snook wrote, quoting Aeschylus before transitioning to a quote from Jarrell’s poem “90 North.” “... Pain comes from the darkness and we call it wisdom. It is pain.”
Councilor Heather Hill did not respond by press deadline.
Councilor Sena Magill did not respond to a request for comment.
Newsweek and The Washington Post were among several national outlets that reported Wednesday on Walker’s post.
Locally, the post received a mixed response.
John Edwin Mason, a professor of African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, said the post shows how radically different the African American experience is from the white experience in Charlottesville.
“Probably most white people think that Charlottesville works pretty well because Charlottesville is set up to be a delightful place to be a middle class or affluent white person,” Mason said. “Charlottesville has been a very uncomfortable place to be Black from the very beginning.”
Mason pointed out that Charlottesville was founded during the time of slavery, and that the city grew during the era of Jim Crow and segregation.
“The racial hierarchy was legally enshrined for most of Charlottesville’s history, so it’s only been within the last 50 or 60 years that Charlottesville has had time to redress that legacy of white supremacy and racism, and it has been very slow to do it,” he said. “What the mayor was expressing was a point of view that I think is widely shared within the Black community about what Charlottesville is all about.”
“I’m not saying that Black people walk around being angry all the time, because we don’t,” Mason said. “But, frankly, it is a different city from the way that I think probably most white people view it. So there’s a real disjuncture there of seeing the city as a good and fair place and seeing the city as a place of injustice; I think that the responses that I’ve heard and the responses that I’ve read reflect that.”
Mason said Charlottesville is a town without a large Black political community compared with a place like Richmond. Walker is currently the only Black member of the City Council.
“I think people also don’t understand how isolated the mayor feels,” Mason said. “She really is out there by herself as an African American woman, and I don’t think people understand how difficult it is to be in her position and how much she feels as though people are fighting her at every step and judging her according to different standards.”
During an episode of his Facebook Live webshow I Love CVille on Wednesday night, host Jerry Miller, an Albemarle County resident, voiced frustration at the mayor’s statements.
“[Charlottesville] is a special place. I can’t sit around idly anymore … it’s us who is entrusted to maintain and grow and build the legacy that is Charlottesville,” Miller said.