Note from BBT: In today’s episode of ‘He’s gotta be Brazilian’, we learn of yet another situation involving the accusation of someone committing a racist act and but then denying the accusation because…well, in Brazil, we’ve heard these types of explanations/excuses for decades. Let me get to the story first and I’ll weigh in on it at the end.
Accused of racial injury, Wassef denies being racist: ‘I have already dated a black woman’
Lawyer Frederick Wassef was accused of racial injury by a pizzeria attendant; according to her, he called her “macaca” (monkey)
Courtesy of UOL
Lawyer Frederick Wassef, who has worked for the Bolsonaro family, denied being racist after being accused of racial injury by a pizzeria attendant in the nation’s capital city of Brasília (DF). She filed a police report and reported to authorities that she was called a “monkey” by the lawyer.
“I already dated a black woman, my grandfather, my father’s father, was a mulatto, kind of mulatto. I’m not racist. In fact, my father himself has hair that’s quite nappy, curled,” he said, in an interview with in the O Globo newspaper.
The victim reported to the police that, upon leaving, Wassef met her at the cash register and started to complain. “This pizza is not good. Have you eaten it?”. She answered no and he replied saying, out loud: “Você é uma macaca! (You’re a monkey!) You eat whatever you get.”
For the lawyer, the accusation is nothing more than a “farce” planned by the store manager, who would have tried to harm him on previous occasions.
“They are lying and plotting to destroy my image and my reputation, to incriminate me. I have never harassed anyone in my life, I am not and I was not a racist, I have great black brother friends,” he said.
“To say that I am racist is a farce, a lie, a crime of slander. I am a victim of a crime, not the perpetrator,” he added.
Wassef went to the police station yesterday to press charges against the employee for slanderous charges. “Who is sponsoring this? Who is behind this? They devised a plan. Someone hired, sponsored and paid expensive and famous lawyers from Brasília. At no time did I call the girl a monkey, nor did I call her negra. Important to say, she is not black,” he said.
In the interview, Wassef accused the pizzeria manager of being the “orchestrator” of the accusation because he would be an “Anti-Bolsonaro radical”. He said the official “has repeatedly abused him on other occasions”. In the police report, the attendant said that the lawyer is a frequent customer of the establishment and abuses the employees.
“I already saw him filming me, because he recognized me as Bolsonaro’s lawyer. From the information I found out, he doesn’t like Bolsonaro, he’s an anti-Bolosnaro radical, he has always abused me. He’s a disaffectionate person who doesn’t like me for ideological and political reasons. He used a new employee, put things in her head, arranged to sponsor lawyers, and so on, devised this plan and, three days later, carried out it,” he said.
Wassef said that “everything will be proved and put on the record”. He claims he would have complained about the pizza because “it was absolutely raw and it looked like tomato soup from so much sauce that it had”.
“When she started to scold me, hitting me right in the face, saying that I was the only one who complained, I said, ‘Wow, a customer making a suggestion and you scold me’. I paid, turned my back and left. The rest is an invention,” he says.
In an interview with the Globo TV news program, Fantástico, the Pizza Hut worker Danielle da Cruz Oliveira, 18, complained about the lawyer’s conduct and told her side of the incident.
“I think he likes to humiliate people because of having a high position,” she said.
Danielle commented again about the day of the crime. According to the employee, Wassef called her “monkey” after asking if she had eaten the pizza. The young woman, who works and is studying psychology, said that, in another situation, the lawyer refused her service.
“He said he didn’t want to be attended by me, because I was black and that I looked like a sonsa and wouldn’t know how to write down his request”. The term sonsa defines a person who pretends to be stupid but in fact is very knowledgeable.
According to the young woman, the crime happened on Sunday, November 8. She reports that the company she works for, Pizza Hut, provided the necessary support to know about the case. “They said that I had all the support to register the police report”.
The case is being investigated by the 1st Police Precinct, in Brasília’s Asa Sul region, and was registered as racial insult. Three employees of the establishment testified in Danielle’s favor. Another witness and Wassef were to be questioned about the incident following week.
Note from BBT: So, once again, we have a classic case of ‘he said, she said’, but there are so many things going on in this piece that are so very typically Brazilian that you could say you took one class out of a semester on a racial issues in Brazil course. Let’s take a look.
First, you have the accusation that the lawyer called a young black woman a macaca, or monkey, Brazil’s favorite term for insulting its black citizens. Second, although we still have say he allegedly called her a monkey, we also have the denial of being racist which a Brazilian will deny even being caught in the act of saying or doing something that would be considered racist. Third, we have the very common justification for why he can’t possibly be racist: he’s dated a black woman, he has black friends and even his father is mulatto, or least partially black (see here, here or here). Fourth, another common practice in Brazil, is for people to deny that someone is actually black. This practice is one of the numerous reasons that so many Brazilians of visible African ancestry often don’t know that they are black or are deceived into believing they aren’t.
I wasn’t there, so I can’t make any real judgment on this case only to say that, to be a setup in the manner that the lawyer claims sounds like a bit of stretch. Calling a black man or woman a monkey is so common in Brazil that I lean more toward believing the young woman. We have at least three witnesses in support of the young woman and then adding this to the fact that Wassef was once as legal representative for President Jair Bolsonaro, a guy who strikes me as a neo-Nazi/KKK type himself and I’m almost willing to put money on Oliveira’s version of the incident.
The other thing that I must point out here, again, is the association so many Brazilians make between sex across racial lines with the absence of racist ideals/beliefs/actions. We’ve heard too many people attempt to dismiss their racist behavior with this excuse as if the rape of black women during the slavery era somehow outweighed the racist nature of the regime, as if people don’t have fetishes for sex across racial lines or as if people don’t pay for sexual acts. How people could believe that having participating in interracial sexual relations in the previous three examples somehow automatically dismisses the existence of racism or a racial hierarchy is beyond me.
But that’s Brazil for you. The country in which nobody is racist.