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Bellamy’s tweets — and what we should expect from public officials

Vice mayor should go further in atoning for his comments

Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, best known for spearheading the campaign to remove the Robert E. Lee statue downtown, has made headlines for a series of reprehensible messages he publicly tweeted about women, gay people and white people from 2009 to 2014. The tweets are, most charitably, grossly unprofessional — there is no excuse for anyone, much less a public official, tweeting endorsements of rape or disparaging gay individuals. While Bellamy has since apologized, constituents who fall into these demographic groups have ample reason to question whether he can fairly represent them. If Bellamy wants to continue in the public sphere, he must prove to those groups that his policy objectives align with the sentiments expressed in his apology.

Regarding women, Bellamy retweeted, “Eat it while she sleep if she moan it aint rape.” Speaking of education — relevant to Bellamy for his role on the State Board of Education and his teaching position at Albemarle High School — he tweeted, “I’m all for equal opportunity..but a Female Principal with a school full of female teachers is fkn a sure fire way to fk up our lil boys smh.” Other tweets imply women often make false accusations of rape. In a tweet about white people, Bellamy wrote, “I really tune out when white people talk in community meetings. I really need to work on that smh… *Obama Shrug*.” These messages are inconsistent with the fact that Bellamy has often championed socially progressive causes, including a program called “H.Y.P.E. Steppin” which he started in Sept. 2012 to empower young women, which has helped raise local students’ GPAs.

Bellamy’s tweets call into question whether he can effectively work with other members of the community in his City Council role. Some may contend it’s unfair to hold Bellamy to this standard since these tweets were initially brought to light by a white supremacist blogger. A commenter on our Facebook page suggested this “looks like an attempt to take down one of [Charlottesville’s] most public leader[s] of color.” But people unquestionably have a right to be upset — these tweets were hateful, regardless of how they were uncovered.

The divergence between what Bellamy has publicly said about others and his professed “focus on improving the lives of those who lack resources” should raise alarm: no one should be making these statements, and the best course of action for Bellamy is to approach the communities he previously insulted and make the case for why he still deserves to represent them.