Georgia Rep. Erica Thomas’ name has been all up and through media headlines for the past week after a white shopper at a Publix grocery store in a suburb of Atlanta cursed at her in front of her young child for having too many items in the express lane.
Thomas, who is pregnant, said in a Twitter post July 19:
“Today I was verbally assaulted in the grocery store by a white man who told me I was a lazy SOB and to go back to where I came from bc I had to many items in the express lane. My husband wasn’t there to defend me because he is on Active Duty serving the country I came from USA!”
She also posted video of herself on Facebook sobbing and explaining that although she had 15 items in the 10 items or less checkout line, she used the line because she can’t stand for long periods of time.
“I said sir you don’t even know me. I’m not lazy. I’m 9 months pregnant,” Thomas said in the video. “He says ‘you’re ignorant. You’re ignorant,’ and I’m not. And it hurt me so bad.”
Now since the initial story, the man who accused Thomas, Eric Sparkes, has denied telling her to go back from where she came. In fact, a witness at the store told reporters that Thomas uttered the words — made infamous by President Donald Trump when he told four congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
For some people, that’s the whole story.
When I go to type Thomas’ name in the Twitter search, the words “hoax” or “lied” pop up immediately after it.
One Twitter user, Joe Proenza, said “this kinda of projection is unbelievable.”
“Jussie Smollett would be so proud,” he said.
Conservative comedians Kevin Hodge and Keith Hodge explained in a 53-second Twitter video why “we do not stand with Erica Thomas.”
Cool. We all get to have an opinion.
Some of us are even lucky enough to be able to express them without being shot and killed, but make no mistake. If a black man had come up to a pregnant white woman and called her a son of a b—- in front of her white daughter, he would be in jail at best and shot at worst.
This incident isn’t about who told whom to go back to where they came from for me. Surveillance video released to reporters shows Sparkes approaching Thomas. He admitted to cursing at a pregnant woman, and video shows that this all went down in front of a child.
Those facts alone are damning enough to me for two reasons.
No. 1: I’m one of those silly little people who think others deserve empathy and common decency when they’re dealing with medical conditions. And please, don’t for one second think pregnancy isn’t a medical condition just because the result is often positive. When women make pregnancy look easy, it’s a testament to their strength, nothing else.
No. 2: People who feel it’s their responsibility to police others over the most minor of infractions irritate me, especially because those are often the same people who turn a blind eye when others commit major infractions.
There are children being housed in jails in this country for doing nothing more than fleeing life-threatening situations with their parents.
There are black men and women – even white men with mental illnesses – who have lost their lives because of police officers who at best, are improperly trained to do their jobs and at worst, hold prejudices that should eliminate them from being able to serve others.
Where are the Eric Sparkes of the world when those travesties are happening?
Nowhere, because they don’t often show up for black and brown people, at least not with the same vigor that some of us seem to show up for them.