Note from BW of Brazil: This story is so very typical of “we’re not racists” Brazil. If we didn’t already have enough stories demonstrating the racist nature of Brazilian society and its inability or desire to acknowledge it or much less do anything about it, today’s story simply adds another to this long, sad history. Let’s get to the details first and I’ll chime with my thoughts later…
Employee denounces boss who posted photo without her permission with a racist caption: “Slave Isaura”
Rosilene Medeiros was cleaning a store and didn’t authorize the photo published on a social network
Rosilene Medeiros registered at the police station in Madureira (29th DP), in Rio’s north zone, a complaint of injúria racial (racial slur) against the manager of a snack bar in the neighborhood. She worked as a cashier in a branch of a fast food shop.
She resigned after the manager posted on Facebook a photo with the caption “protagonista da novela Escravasaura” (sic) (meaning ‘protagonist of the novela/soap opera Isaura the slave’). In the image, Rosilene appears wiping down the counter. The victim of racism claims she didn’t authorize the publication of the photo, and the manager agreed not post it.
“I was very uncomfortable, hurt. I never imagined I would go through this. The moment I saw the picture, I began to shake and cry.”
Rosilene worked as a cashier but was doing some cleaning at the request of the manager.
“She asked me to do something or other [not working as cashier]. Not just me, as other employees. As I didn’t think anything of it, I did it.”
The manager was not found to talk about the report. Rosilene says she resigned because, after filing a complaint, she was persecuted in the snack bar.
“Everything she asked me to do, she said ‘look, I’m not racist, no, right?’, But in a mocking tone. So not to lose reason and do become a joke, I resigned. I left without any right, because I had little experience, with only two months of work. And yet I was fined for leaving before the length of the contract.”
Through a statement, the fast-food company said it “does not tolerate any form of racism in the restaurants of the chain and the franchisee apologizes for the misunderstanding. The network says it will re-enforce the training of employees to prevent events like this from recurring and reminds that its team is oriented to act in an ethical, friendly and respectful manner. The franchisee responsible for this store has taken immediate steps to orient the manager. The chain is awaiting the outcome of the police investigation, collaborating with public agencies in solving the case and taking appropriate measures.”
The manager and the owner of the establishment have provided clarifications. They said that there was no offense in the posting. Rosilene regrets the episode because she is unemployed, with two children to support.
“I just want her to pay for what she did to me. I felt humiliated. Myself, who is unemployed. My children are in their godmother’s house because I have no condition to stay with them.”
Anyone who wishes to employ Rosilene, can send a message to WhatsApp Record Rio: (21) 9937-6540 9
Note from BW of Brazil: OK, so there’s nothing really shocking about this incident, that is if you’re familiar with the day-to-day interactions between black and white Brazilians. Judging from the comments this blog receives here and in the social networking sites, incidents such as the one described above still come as a surprise to people outside of Brazil who had no idea that things of such a racist nature went down in Brazil so regularly.
So what’s the worst thing about the story above?
Well, the fact that someone made such a comment is repugnant, but again, not surprising. In fact, the manager’s actions demonstrate why we discuss black representation in the media so much on this blog. People will argue forever that characters, images and situations presented in fictional television productions are ‘just entertainment’ that has no bearing or influence on the society at large. This blog has long exposed and denounced not only the media’s under-representation of Afro-Brazilians but perhaps more importantly, the way they are presented when they are featured.
On a daily basis, on television, in advertisements, in novels, etc., black Brazilians are presented as street sweepers, maids, cooks, thieves, idiots and scantily-clad Carnaval dancers. As such, these images contribute in a huge way to the way that persons of visible African descent are envisioned in public perception. It contributes to people being surprised/shocked when they meet black Brazilians who occupy positions of prestige. Are we simply blowing this situation out of proportion? Clearly not. Why? 1) The manager made a clear association between a black employee and the slavery era that was part of Brazil’s history for about 350 years. 2) She referred to the title character of a popular novela depicting this era. And 3) this image is so associated with Afro-Brazilians that she thought it would be funny to post an image with such an insensitive comment on a social networking site.
But the part that is the topping on the cake is 1) the store’s typical statement that it doesn’t tolerate any form of racism but 2) not finding anything offensive about the posting. Seriously? It simply goes to show how racism is maintained in Brazilian society. When obviously racist incidents go down, people will simply declare there was no racist intent, it was a joke or a misunderstanding. And if the manager and owner see nothing wrong with what happened, it most likely means they are not prepared to orient employees and managers on proper etiquette and behavior. What’s perhaps even more ridiculous in this case is that the manager used a typical disclaimer phrase before actually doing something racist: “look, I’m not racist, right?”
If this sort of behavior seems strange to those who are unfamiliar with Brazil, please see some of our previous articles such as “‘Myth of racial democracy is part of the education of the Brazilian,” says Congolese anthropologist living in Brazil” or ““Racist? Who me?”: 92% of Brazilians believe racism exists but only 1.3% consider themselves racist”. Or some of our previous posts on stereotypes in the media. Maybe then you’ll understand why we call out Brazil’s top two TV networks for both airing series based in the slavery era today, in the middle of 2016. As we can see from this most recent incident, these images continue to have a huge affect on how the place that societies around the world continue to see black people occupying. And THAT is why such images in the media MUST change!