When someone screams racism, people’s ears automatically perk up. It also is our nature to believe someone who alleges they have been wronged for something over which they have no control — skin color, ethnicity or physical handicap.
People who are attacked legitimately should be defended and their attacker identified and shamed. Sadly, that does not happen often enough.
Even worse is when someone claims victimization without justification, as appears to be the case recently at a Georgia grocery store by a state legislator.
African American state Rep. Erica Thomas, a Democrat whose district is in suburban Atalanta, claimed a man confronted her in the store and told her to “go back” where she came from, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She posted a video on social media narrating her version of events and sent out a campaign fundraiser.
A problem developed when Thomas, in the middle of a news conference in front of a bank of local news cameras, found herself interrupted by the man she accused of making racist remarks. He denied he said anything close to what she claimed, adding he is a Cuban American and a Democrat, not some racist radical on a rampage.
The confrontation in the grocery store, he said, wasn’t about her going back to another country, but going to another checkout because she had too many items for the express lane, Atlanta-area media reported.
A video showing the heated argument doesn’t contain sound, so it is impossible to know exactly what either person said. A bystander said he never heard the man make the “go back” comment, but it still largely is a she said-he said situation.
What is clear is both sides and their supporters have dug in, cast reason and evidence aside and, as the accused man said, turned the skirmish into a “national case about race overnight.”
There are plenty of legitimate instances of racism and political animosity in public around the country. Social media videos show people rolling down the window on their pickup to scream “go back” at someone with brown skin — we have claims of that in Brazoria County — or a stranger getting into someone’s face at a restaurant then smacking them with their MAGA hat.
Those make headlines every week and provide each fringe with ammunition to accuse the other of intolerance.
When an elected official raised the red flag of racism without justification, it makes it more difficult for legitimate cases to be heard and a sincere discussion on race to occur.