The silliness of this week almost meant no new Friday Funny. From a human rights tribunal musing over whether waxing a transgender woman’s testicles was a fundament right to the Bob Muller Comedy Hour, your humble writer felt the world maxed out on pure silliness. Then Erica Thomas’s story fell into my lap, and immediately I thanked the comedy gods.
Erica Thomas** is a Georgia representative, woman of color, mother, and a shopper at Publix. Now I’m by nature suspicious of people who shop at Publix, because despite their excellent customer service and the local store being the one place in town I can get a certain kind of spaetzle my better half prefers, Publix’s prices are rather inflated. So by nature, anyone who frequents a Publix has more money than sense.
Apparently on July 19, Representative Thomas had a bad day at the local Publix. In a video posted to Facebook, Thomas claimed tearfully that she’d been in the express checkout lane with fifteen items when an “angry white man” told her she was over the ten item express checkout limit.
Now normally I’d argue in favor of the angry white guy because I’ve long held a belief breaking express checkout item limits should be a federal felony,*** but apparently Representative Thomas was nine months pregnant and accompanied by her daughter, so I would be inclined to cut her a little slack. The angry white man didn’t, according to Ms. Thomas, and called her a “lazy bitch,” and told her to “go back to where she came from.”
The video went viral, because it fit a convenient narrative:**** everything a white person says or does is racist, and if this isn’t affirmed, the white person guilty of such heinous ignorance is either racist or guilty of supporting racist institutions. Unfortunately for Ms. Thomas, the video went so viral the “angry white man” came forward to give his side of the story.
And he wasn’t white.
Eric Sparkes, a man of Cuban descent and self-avowed life-long Democrat, showed up at Publix July 20th as Thomas spoke with television reporters about her experience. He admitted to calling Representative Thomas a “selfish little bitch,” but steadfastly denied ever telling her to go back to where she came from.
Normally, I’d write this up to a stupid “he said, she said,” argument. But as every late-night TV salesman’s uttered at some point, “But wait! There’s more!”
Police actually investigated the situation and a Publix employee told Cobb County officers it was actually Representative Thomas who said “Go back to where you came from!” And repeatedly. And loudly.
No charges were filed.
Now in this situation, once caught in the lie, the average person would simply apologize, admit the wrongdoing, and move on with a mealy-mouthed excuse about how it’s “important to have a dialogue.” But as we’ve established, Representative Thomas is far from average.
No, Thomas lawyered up and doubled down, with her attorney claiming the matter needed additional investigation because the witness mentioned in the police report “didn’t hear the initial argument.” Representative Thomas took her case to the court of public opinion by calling Sparkes a “coward” and a “liar.”
Maybe that’s why Publix released the surveillance video of the encounter.
Go watch it for yourself. Granted, the linked copy has Mr. Sparkes basically narrating what happened, but if you’re concerned, go to the 1:15 mark and watch from there. Sparkes doesn’t seem to be the one angry here. And he’s not acting violent or threatening towards her in any manner as Thomas suggested in her initial Facebook video.
So what can we learn from this encounter? A few points. First, people lie. Second, the more detailed your lie, the more people will be inclined to sniff out your bullshit and call you on it.
And most importantly, if the line says “Ten items or less,” respect the sign. It’s there for a reason, no matter your health status. This is a civilized nation, and we have laws here. And those laws apply even if you’re an elected official.
*With apologies to the proprietor.
**Normally I’d rather be caught dead than linking to Wikipedia. I’m flying by the seat of my pants on this one, though.
***Other grocery store potential felonies include lingering in aisles, chatting with friends, and staring at item prices for longer than fifteen seconds. It’s a grocery store, not a goddamn social club. Make your list, get your shit, and get out.****Your requisite ear worm for the day: