Racist Facebook post about Michelle Obama spawns online firestorm

Many in a small town in West Virginia have been calling for the resignation of both a nonprofit group’s director and the town's mayor, after the two were connected with a Facebook post about Michelle Obama that is seen as blatantly racist.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
First lady Michelle Obama welcomes community leaders from across the country in the East Room of the White House on Monday.

A Facebook post that made disparaging comments about first lady Michelle Obama has gone viral nationwide, receiving criticism from many who say it was seeped in racism.

"It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified first lady in the White House. I'm tired of seeing a Ape in heels," Pamela Ramsey Taylor, the head of a West Virginia nonprofit in Clay County, wrote on Facebook.

The mayor of the town of Clay, W.Va., Beverly Whaling, responded, "just made my day Pam."

The offensive post was hardly the first of its kind from a town or city official. Last month, the mayor of West York, Pa., resigned amid pressure from other town officials and constituents after circulating racist memes of the Obama family on his Facebook page. While hordes of Americans publicly condemn the acts of racism and have helped to facilitate the removal of such officials, the recurring instances serve to show that racial tensions remain in communities across the nation – even among the views of elected and appointed officials.

"These remarks tell us there’s a strong strain of bigotry and racism still alive in our country," Gene Policinski, senior vice president for the First Amendment Center in Nashville, previously told The Christian Science Monitor in October. "Sometimes the function of free speech is to give us a true picture of society."

While fewer than 500 people reside in Clay, and only around 9,000 in the county, the post has spread fiercely across the internet. Petitions seeking the removal of both women from their positions garnered more than 85,000 signatures from those who sought to stand up to the spread of racial statements, indicating that many across the nation refuse to accept hateful language on part of officials.

The town of Clay has no black residents, and the county itself is 98 percent white, according to BBC. Still, both women contended that the post was not meant to spark racial outrage, but reflected their excitement of a Donald Trump presidency.

"My comment was not intended to be racist at all," Ms. Whaling said in a statement to The Washington Post. "I was referring to my day being made for change in the White House! I am truly sorry for any hard feeling this may have caused! Those who know me know that I’m not of any way racist!"

More than 75 percent of Clay County voters cast ballots for Mr. Trump, compared to 68 percent statewide.

Ms. Taylor, who directs the partially state and federal funded Clay County Development group, was removed from her position Monday.

West Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore issued an apology to Michelle Obama, saying that the rhetoric does not reflect the people of the state and their views.

"West Virginia truly is better than this," she wrote. "These radical, hateful, and racist ideals are exactly what we at the West Virginia Democratic Party will continue to fight against."

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