A confrontation between a Black Georgia lawmaker and an alleged racist came to a head on over the weekend in front of news cameras.
As Georgia State Rep. Erica Thomas was talking to Atlanta’s WSB-TV in front of the Publix grocery store where she claimed she was harassed by a white man, who has been identified as Eric Sparkes. Sparkes suddenly appeared at the grocery store to dispute the claims made against him. This all began after Thomas posted a tearful video to Facebook detailing how Sparkes berated her while she was in line at Publix while she was nine months pregnant. She alleged that he was angry that she had more than 10 items in the 10 items or less line. Thomas explained she was in the express line because she was pregnant and wanted to get off of her feet.
“This white man comes up to me and says, ‘You lazy son of (expletive). You need to go back where you came from,'”she said in the video. “Sir, you don’t even know me. I’m not lazy. I’m nine months pregnant.”
The video went viral and gained the attention of social media users and celebrities, whom tweeted the hashtag “#IStandWithErica.”
On Saturday during Thomas’ planned interview at Publix, Sparkes had showed up at the store to speak with management, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. When Thomas confronted him, he claimed she made the whole thing up.
“I’m a liar about what?” Thomas asked Sparkes.
“Everything that happened,” Sparkes said. “Me telling you to ‘Go back where you came from. Did I say that? Is it on video?”
When Thomas pressed him on what he said, Sparkes only admitted to calling her a “lazy son of a bitch” and chalked that up to being the worst thing he said to her. He also claimed to be a Cuban Democrat and said Thomas was only looking for attention for political gain.
“This woman is playing the victim for political purposes because she is a state legislator,” Sparkes said. “I’m a Democrat and will vote Democrat for the rest of my life, so call me whatever you want to believe. For her political purposes, make it black, white, brown, whatever. It is untrue.”
Watch the exchange below:
Though Thomas did not record the confrontation on her cellphone, she said there were witnesses willing to testify and Publix admitted that there is surveillance video; WSB-TV reported that they have been cooperating with police. However, she appeared to have backtracked when told reporters,“I don’t want to say he said, ‘Go back to your country,’ or ‘Go back to where you came from.’ But he was making those types of references is what I remember.”
This incident happened the same week Donald Trump wrote a series of racist tweets aimed at four Congresswomen of color, who are members of what is known as “The Squad.” In his tweets, he urged them to “go back” to their countries of origin. Following his tweets several Democrats denounced the president as racist, while Republicans have not been as vocal. And during a Trump rally, Trump supports began to chant the phrase and went on to threaten the lives of one of a Black congresswoman.