The newest chapter in that expansive compendium of progressive myth and fable: The Verbal Assault of Representative Erica Thomas.
Once upon a time, Erica Thomas, a state legislator in Georgia, roamed the aisles of a local grocery store for a handful of canned goods and snack foods. Georgia, you’ll remember, is not exactly friendly to minorities — this is the same state (per another fable in the collection) that denied Stacey Abrams the governorship by unfairly suppressing the votes of foreign nationals and Westview Cemetery interrees. Thomas is not simply courageous; she is a trailblazer. A Ruby Bridges for our time.
Thomas is nine months pregnant; while her late-stage pregnancy would typically be irrelevant — clumps of cells do not, by the by, make compelling characters in this genre — it served to make her a more sympathetic hero. Thomas wheeled her 15-item cart to the express lane, meant explicitly for customers with ten items or fewer. But she’s nine months pregnant — how can she be expected to adhere to such onerous guidelines when she is saddled with a large mass of tissue in her womb?
Thomas was minding her own business when a redneck (probably from the loathsome foothills of Pickens County) was so blinded by privilege and intoxicated with a stuporous love for the president that he told the honorable representative to “go back where she came from.”
America is a racist country.
But in real life, Erica Thomas is not brave. She is not Ruby Bridges. She’s not even Angela Davis. She’s a liar. In the immediate aftermath of the purported episode, a teary-eyed Thomas rushed to social media. In a Facebook post captioned “I’m about to be very Transparent” — capital T, for good measure — “because this racism and hate is getting out of control! I feared for my life!” Thomas describes the everyday horrors of Donald Trump’s America:
I decided to go live because I’m very upset because people are getting really out of control with this, with this white privilege stuff. I’m at the grocery and I’m in … the aisle that says ’10 Items or Less.’ Yes, I have 15 items, but I’m nine months pregnant and I can’t stand up for long. And this white man comes up to me and says, ‘You lazy son of a b—h… You need to go back where you came from.’
Later in the video, Thomas invoked the plight of the Ilhan Omar, and the now-infamous “Send her back” chants, as she made several allegations that this anonymous white man in a Georgia grocery store insisted that Representative Thomas “Go back to where [she] came from.”
“I’m from America!” she relayed between bated breaths.
The honorable representative knows where this type of casual racism leads: “If you are silent — I don’t know the Martin Luther King quote, but if you are silent, you’re [part of the problem].” She’s crying, but she’s not fragile: “I’m tough,” she insists, but considering she was nine months pregnant, “I was helpless.”
Watch this surveillance video. Does the woman in that video — the one who is nine months pregnant and wearing the implausibly ironic “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” T-shirt, who approaches the man and waves her finger at him — look “helpless”?
There’s no audio in the surveillance footage. Perhaps the white man (Eric Sparkes, who, as fate would have it, has Cuban heritage and a documented record of progressive bona fides) did tell her to “go back” to her country. But the police report and eyewitness accounts tell a story that is at once shocking and predictable (and, per chance, shockingly predictable). From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, emphasis mine:
A Publix employee told a Cobb County officer that she witnessed part of the conversation and heard Thomas “continuously tell Eric Sparkes to ‘Go back where you came from!’” but did not hear Sparkes utter those words to Thomas.
Okay, okay. While this particular instance of public bigotry didn’t actually happen, it highlights the larger truth that America is an awful, no-good, very-bad, racist country that we ought to despise, tear down, and remake in something approaching Sweden’s image. Racism is everywhere. Sexism is everywhere. And even if Brett Kavanaugh isn’t a gang rapist, Jussie Smollett wasn’t assaulted by the only two Trump supporters in Chicago, the Covington Catholic boys didn’t harangue an American Indian man who was minding his own business, the Duke lacrosse team didn’t sexually abuse a racial minority, and Tawana Brawley wasn’t shoved into a garbage bag filled with feces, the larger truth remains.
Unless it doesn’t.