“You can come in, girl, you’re white”: Three black men barred from restaurant after watching whites enter; in melee, men chased out with chairs and clubs
By Marques Travae
I thought these sorts of things weren’t supposed to happen, well at least not due to the race factor. Sometimes, a part of me wants to believe that hatred, or rejection of people due to skin color can’t be that serious, but then everyday, something like this will quickly snap me back into reality. I must constantly remain in this reality as I too have this skin color that seems to provoke hatred, disgust and fear on the one side, but then a twisted sort of jealousy, admiration and envy on the other. It’s already the third week in March, so even as I didn’t have the time to get to it when I wanted to, as my focus is dealing with issues of race in Brazil, it’s never to late to share with readers.
It was February 24th, less than a month ago. Carnaval season in Brazil was just starting to wind down when three young black males, Lucas Matheus dos Santos, 24, and Peterson Damião dos Santos, 35, and later, Wesley Silva do Nascimento, 28, met at the Esquina da Praça restaurant in the República region of downtown São Paulo, to meet up with another group of friends.
Their reception was anything but welcoming: the friends ending up being caught up in the middle of a racist aggression by employees of the establishment and left there wounded, going directly to health care tents located in the region. (Three Black Men barred from Restaurant after watching whites Enter)
It seems things went wayward from the moment the friends decided to stop in a restaurant. Waiting their turn to go in, the trio started to notice something a little strange. Many people were being allowed to enter the establishment while they were being told to wait. At first, they thought it was because the establishment was full. But paying attention to the situation, they noticed that their friends, all of whom happened to be white, seemed to have been granted free entrance into the place without any issues.
After perceiving what was going down, the trio began to wonder if they were being victimized by something that tens of thousands of Brazilians deal with everyday, even when it’s difficult at first to believe that it’s happening, whether it’s blatant or subtle.
“It was very difficult, especially when we realized that it was a racist episode. You can’t have cockroach blood dealing with a situation like this. Even knowing the risks we were taking, but it’s difficult,” said Lucas Matheus dos Santos, who is studying dentistry.
As this treatment began to become clearer, the trio decided to start filming the episode with their cell phone cameras. Perhaps they were documenting the incident as proof or maybe to convince themselves that something so blatantly racist was actually happening to them.
If they were in fact in a state of disbelief, one particular comment confirmed what they were thinking. An employee at the restaurant verbally stated to a customer, “You can come in, girl, you’re white, follow him”. As one might understand, this statement became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, which was simultaneously a signal that they could no longer stay quiet and watch the segregatory treatment happen right in their faces.
It was then that an older gentleman who claimed to be owner of the place appeared in the video and physically attempted to stop the men from recording the incident. Following this intervention, the trio was then assaulted violently thrown out of the restaurant. In the video chairs and other objects can be seen being hurled at the three men upon their exit from the place.
Having been struck in the melee, the friends sought medical attention at one of the health tents set up for those who may experience health issues during the Carnaval festivities. One of the men, Peterson, had one of his fingers dislocated as he tried to defend himself and avoid the objects being thrown. Lucas ended up being assaulted by a security guard who struck him with a wooden club. Inside the medical tent, he received stitches on the area of his head where he was wounded. Nascimento also says he was hit with a chair and received a kick in the stomach from one of the restaurant’s employees, who was also black. The end of the wild scene can be seen in the video below at about the 1:37 mark.
Besides medical attention, the trio was also helped by lawyer Carolina Fichmann.
“We thought it would just be about treating women and LGBT victims of harassment and, thank God, nothing serious happened. But on the other hand, we had to deal with this. And how is it possible that in 2020 something like this will happen? It’s very absurd. In the video you can see that they did nothing wrong, that they just wanted to go into the restaurant and eat,” said Fichmann.
Questioned about why she decided to offer her legal assistance to the young men, Fichmann said:
“When I graduated I took an oath that I would fight for justice. And if in the face of such a case, I simply closed my eyes, what would be the meaning of my life?”
For the lawyer, the case should be treated as racism, which is legally classified as a crime in Brazil, according to the definition in law 7.716/89 of the civil code.
“In addition to bodily injury, there was a crime of racism in the form of article 5 of that law due to the segregation suffered. You clearly see that young blacks were obstructed while whites entered without any restrictions. And in that we see the crime of racism that is different from racial injury. It’s not about someone who was cursed, they were segregated, like apartheid, something horrible.”
Similar to what many black Brazilians say after such an experience, Peterson says he had never experienced such an incident:
“We know that this is a frequent thing, but I had never experienced anything like it. It’s a very big revolt. They threw chairs at me, assaulted my cousin with a club on the head. Whoever calls this playing the victim it’s because he’s never gone through this or never will go through this.”
It should also be pointed out that Peterson and his friends weren’t seeking any sort of special treatent, simply the right to be treated the same as everyone else. Aware that racism and racial exclusion play enormous roles in how whites and non-whites are treated in society, he also believes that black people cannot remain silent when fasced with such treatment:
“We were saddened by everything that happened, as it was another case of racism. But we can’t give up. We have to denounce and seek justice until the end.”
After the ordeal, Lucas Matheus dos Santos, Peterson’s cousin, also pointed out the key to overcoming a racial hierarchy that has kept Afro-Brazilians at the bottom of society for near five centuries: unity.
“When I see black-skinned people agreeing that this is victimism, I am most revolted. Not so much white people, because they will never understand what it means. It’s a daily struggle, which we must fight every day.”
Instead of giving up because of this experience, Lucas is using the incident as a source of strength in his determination to change this reality for black people. Studying dentistry, he is already doing his part by seeking to enter a profession that, like most other professions in Brazil, is not expected to be occupied by black people. In the 21st century, it’s still very common that everyday Brazilians don’t expect to be served by black doctors, black judges or black CEOs, along with hundreds of other areas of employment.
“Now that I have been prevented from entering that restaurant because of my color, I am going to fight to buy a place where I want people of my skin to enter. It just makes me stronger to reach the top.”
Taking such an attitude will be vital to changing the reality of black Brazilians, as Brazilian society continues to deny that such an unofficial caste system exists and has existed for centuries. It was no sooner than this story come out that we saw yet another example of Brazil’s atitude and denial when the subject is racism.
Addressing the case, SBT journalist Marcão do Povo immediately went into blame the victim mode. The network had already covered the incident soon after it happened, but then the topic came up again on the news program Primeiro Impacto (First Impact), but this time, the program’s host decided to share his opinion on the incident.
Three Black Men barred from Restaurant after watching whites Enter:
“The case will have to be investigated by the police to know what really happened, to know whether or not there was this issue of racism. Because one thing, people, has to be very clear: one thing is you get to a place, sometimes you get excited because of a drink or another, but another thing is for you to say that everything that happens to you, just because you think you’re different, somos todos iguais (we are all equal), this thing doesn’t exist”, said Marcão do Povo.
Having already used the worn out “we are all equal” frase that so many Brazilians utter when the subject is racism, Marcão went even further in denying what the victims said had happened:
“Many take advantage because they have a dark skin, a skin of another color and thinks that everything that happens to them is because of racism, so you have to know how to differentiate things. But it’s the police who have to investigate. We got in touch with the restaurant, but we didn’t hear anything back.”
The lawyer Carolina Fichmann expressed disappointment with the journalist’s position:
“Marcão doubted the victims’ words, he said, ‘ah let’s see if the police investigate this,’ as if the victims had done something to justify the snack bar’s violent and discriminatory action. They are feeling like victims for the second time. This situation shows how black people need to fight racism on a daily basis,” she said also stating that the trio are also considering initiating a lawsuit against the journalist for moral damages.
Having immediately stepped in and taken up the case, Fichmann believes the journalist should be held accountable for how he sought to undermine the credibility of the victims, saying:
“He doubted the victims’ words and this is very serious. The snack bar had the opportunity to speak up and it didn’t. So who is he? In fact, Marcão shouldn’t, under any circumstances, especially since he has a social responsibility, doubt the word of the victims. Because he might jeopardize the progress of the investigations. People can be influenced by this discourse which is totally distorted from reality.”
The lawyer’s reaction seemed to be that of a surprise to the journalist’s opinion. As I’ve stated in numerous other cases like this, I don’t know why anyone would be surprised by this reaction, particularly coming from SBT. Let us remember the numerous cases involving the comments and actions of SBT-TV’s owner Silvio Santos, whose most recent controversy involved overruling a victory by a black woman in singing contest and awarding the victory to one of her white competitors when she had clearly won the popular vote.
I will also never forget when SBT journalist Rachel Sheherazade praised the actions of a lynch mob when a group of about 30 people attacked a homeless black teen after he had committed a petty theft. The teen was tied to a pole by his neck after having been assaulted. The ironic thing is that Sheherazade had brushed off the legal troubles of singing idol Justin Bieber after his controversial behavior had landed him in some trouble. It also turned out that several of the young men that assaulted the teen also had criminal records.
This also not the first time journalist Marcão has shown his true colors when the issue is skin color. A few years back, the journalist made headlines and was fired from his position on another network for calling singer Ludmilla a “macaca”, meaning monkey, on live television. Typical of how institutional racism functions in Brazil, he was hired by SBT after a brief stint of unemployment.
For Fichmann, Marcão’s approach toward thew case “was very sad. We believed when they made the report that the truth would be informed. The young people were heard, they told the truth. We have witnesses and the video of the moment to prove it. The expectation was that their case would be taken forward.”
“He needs to take more responsibility for his words, he can’t act this way. He needs to understand more about racism. The way he put it is very sad, pitiful and absurd. …What else will he doubt?” questioned the lawyer.
Needless to say, I hope to get more details about this story. As Marcão himself said, the restaurant was given the opportunity to tell its side of the story and yet no representative offered a statement. Usually, when the accusation is racial discrimination, companies are quick to offer the same standard type of comment along the lines of, “our company doesn’t condone any sort of discrimination based on color, race, sexual orientation or religious belief,” but even this type of response wasn’t divulged. If it indeed went down this way, once again, this tells us alot about how black people are treated in the land of “racial democracy”.
With information courtesy of Catraca Livre