Black Georgia Lawmaker Says White Man Told Her 'Go Back Where You Came From'

A Black lawmaker from Georgia said a white man verbally harassed her and told her to “go back to where you came from,” in front of her daughter at a grocery store.

Georgia state representative Erica Thomas posted a video to Facebook Live on July 19 said that a man cursed her out in a Publix supermarket in Mableton, Georgia because she had too many items in her cart in an express aisle for 10 items or less. The representative, who is pregnant, said she had 15 items in her cart but her daughter wanted to purchase five items herself. She also explained in the video that she told the man because she is nine months pregnant, she cannot stand for too long.

"He said, 'I don't care. You're a lazy son of a [expletive]. You need to get the [expletive] out of here. Go back where you came from,'" Thomas said in the Facebook live video.

"It hurt me so bad because everything in me just wanted to tell him who I am. But I couldn't get anything out. All I could tell him was to leave me alone" she continued.

Thomas, 31, apologized to her viewers and said she went live to “see the hate that is going on in this country. The hate is real.”

“And for that white man to call me a [expletive] and lazy and to go back to where I came from because he had a couple of items and he wanted to get in front of me, saying I had 20 items in a 10 item line. What would make you so angry to yell t someone like that?”

Thomas said the white man “kept going on and on” until a Publix employee asked the man to leave. The state representative said in the video she was scared to leave the supermarket because she wasn’t sure if the man would become violent. “I have never had a white man come up to me and say those things to me. I was shocked,” Thomas said.

During a press conference on July 20 in the parking lot of the Publix where the incident occured, a white man identified himself as the person who cursed out the representative, WXIA reported.

Eric Sparkes told the news station that a friend told him about Thomas’s video that went viral on social media. He said that he never told her to “go back to where she came from.” “Her words stating on Twitter and on video stating that I told her she needs to go back to where she came from aren’t true," Sparkes said, according to the news station. "I am Cuban. I am not white. I am white but I am Cuban.”

Sparkes admitted on camera to Thomas that he did curse at her and said he only pointed out to her that she was in the 10 items or less aisle, according to WXIA. He claims that he did not make an inappropriate comment until Thomas reportedly responded with her own inappropriate comment.

After Thomas’s story went viral, the hashtag "IStandwithErica" began to trend on Twitter. Many lawmakers took to social media to show support for the Georgia representative. "I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It begins with a tweet. Then a chant. Now a racist attack on a 9-month pregnant lawmaker and military wife just trying to feed her family. #IStandWithErica," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote. “Erica is the only elected official in the country who is a foster youth alumni. Last year, I invited her to DC to speak to the more than 100 foster youth shadowing their Member of Congress. Her message to them: YOU BELONG. My message to her today: YOU BELONG,” California Congressmember Karen Bass tweeted.

Days before the incident, President Donald Trump targeted four congresswomen and told them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” Three of the congresswomen he came after were born in the US with the exception of Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, who came to the US when she was a child. During one of his rallies in North Carolina, Trump continued his attacks on the congresswomen and singled out Omar. He accused the Minnesota representative of “having a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic” remarks. During his speech, the crowd chanted “sent her back!” ABC News previously reported. The president targeted New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley and Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, collectively known as the Squad, this week, ABC News reported. The crowd responded with boos as Trump mentioned each congresswoman. While singling out Omar and distorting her remarks about the terror attacks during September 11, he accused her of “having a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic” remarks. His speech on Omar, a Somali refugee who came to the US when she was a child, prompted the crowd to chant, “Send her back!”

“Omar blamed the United States for the crisis in Venezuela. I mean, think of that one. And she looks down with contempt on the hard-working Americans saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country,” Trump said. “And, obviously and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds. “When she talked about the evil Israel and it’s ‘all about the Benjamins’ — not a good thing to say. So that’s Omar, that’s Omar,” Trump continued. Trump also ripped into Pressley for thinking “people with the same skin color all need to think the same,” and tore into Tlaib for using the “F word,’ when talking about his presidency, according to ABC News.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.