By Alex White, columnist ~ “Small towns, big potential”
As we all know, the last two months have sent racial shockwaves through Luray. We have shown our best in trying to respond with sensitivity — and forgiveness — but there is no denying that recent events have triggered heightened racial tension in Luray.
Though we wish it wouldn’t, the tension continues. It recently reared its ugly head where one would least expect it — from a local black activist who took to Facebook to tag a black candidate for local office with racial epithets that are too heinous to be reprinted here…
The feelings surrounding these twin debacles have been strong. I want to take the opportunity to supplement those by addressing a shortcoming that I have perceived in what has been written.
As a lifelong black resident pointed out to me in the comments of my most recent column for Page Valley News, the several articles that have explored the recent controversies have largely glossed over an important factor: the proud living history of the many black people who happily call Luray “home” — challenging injustice every day by the simple virtue of their very existence.
A perfect example of this is Mr. Darryl Haley, a former New England Patriot and current business-owning philanthropist who is running a passionate campaign to be Luray’s mayor. Though it is hardly the most important thing about his campaign (or even one of them), it just so happens that he would become Luray’s first black mayor if elected.
Mr. Haley’s story in Luray started like many others who will read this column: as a visitor. In the years since, he has become anything but an outsider. Mr. Haley has established himself as one of the area’s chief philanthropists, as a beloved member of the local business community, and now as a public servant with an ambitious vision of what is needed to improve Luray.
Incredibly, many locals believe that he will win in November, despite the steep odds against his “write-in” bid and the experienced track record of his opponent (an excellent track record, at that). Even more remarkably, he is waging his campaign on the theme of “Community Unity.”
At a time when unity seems trite and distant, Mr. Haley has proven its existence by earning the enthusiastic support of people as diverse as septuagenarian conservative veterans and college-age social justice activists; his yard signs are often matched with those of both parties.
His spirit is that of Luray’s black community, which, as another commenter put it, “…(has) stories — not all of them having to do with pancakes…” Most importantly, Mr. Haley’s campaign has embodied the best of Luray as a whole, a place that is searching for itself.
I believe that local voters of all political persuasions have been refreshed by Mr. Haley’s candidacy. I can only hope that the rest of the world can be invigorated by his historic campaign — especially after so many bad headlines for Luray.
Jack “Alex” White is a student at Harvard University, where he is studying Government. While there, he has become the Policy Director for Harvard Undergraduates for Bipartisan Solutions (HUBS) and Senior Content Editor for the Harvard Economics Review. Alex is a lifelong native of Page County and graduate of Luray High School.
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