Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s feature is a follow-up to a report that was featured here a few days ago about a black male job applicant seeking employment and hearing directly from the manager that he “didn’t hire blacks”. The case went viral after a friend, the head of Bayer Brasil made a post about the situation on the professional networking site LinkedIn. The case went viral not only because it once again displayed how racism works in Brazilian society and its job market but also the power of such discriminatory practices demonstrated by the fact that the man seeking the job thought it would further jeopardize his job search if he decided to speak out on the incident. In covering racismo à brasileira (Brazilian-styled racism) what I have noticed in recent years is a shift in how non-blacks react to reports of racism from flat out denial to belittling the effects of the practice. The attitude nowadays in labeling those who report racist incidents as ‘vitimistas’, or people who play the role of victim, seems to say, ‘OK, so racism exists; that’s no excuse!’ Towards the end of the article, we again see the terms “apartheid” and “veiled” to describe Brazil’s method of discrimination. Well, I have always insisted that while “veiled racism” does exist in Brazil, blatant racism also exists. And like numerous previous posts, I think you will agree that there’s nothing ‘veiled’ about the experiences of the man in today’s story.
‘I don’t interview blacks’: the victim behind the viral complaint that exposed prejudice in search of employment
The denouncement came from the president of the multinational company Bayer in Brazil. In his LinkedIn profile, Theo van der Loon reported an “unacceptable and revolting” story of racial prejudice.
Courtesy of Terra
Executive reported on social networking case of prejudice: ‘Unacceptable and revolting’
“When the interviewer saw his ethnic background he told the HR person that he didn’t know this detail and that he didn’t interview blacks!” he wrote in his profile In the social network aimed at professional contacts.
In the post, which has already had more than 300,000 views on LinkedIn, van der Loo suggested that his friend file a complaint. Another surprise: the victim evaluated that it would be better not to expose the case for fear of “burning” his image. “I’m from a simple and humble family (and) it took a lot to get where I am,” he said.
The repercussion of the episode surprised the president of Bayer Brasil – and even more the victim, who was found by BBC Brasil.
X., as we will call him here, remains convinced that revealing his identity and the company to which he was to do an interview would only hurt his career.
“There is a very thin line between something that can sensitize public opinion and end my professional career,” he says, revealing that he has been unemployed for seven months and does not want to take risks.
“I know the mental map of the Brazilian businessmen, and in Brazil, any kind of aggression can turn against you. You can quickly be seen as a ‘vitimista’ (one who plays the victim) or as a ‘problem guy.'”
X. has pursued a promising career in the area of information technology and has gradually established himself in management positions.
Born and raised in a “traditional neighborhood” of São Paulo, a great-grandson of slaves, he was the first of his family to go to college, to leave the country and to study in the USA.
But he says that the account of prejudice is far from being an exception in his professional career.
When X. went after his first job, at the age of 14, competing for an office boy job in a well-known retailer of school supplies, he heard from the girl that forwarded the candidates to fill in “no vacancies” for him; he looked at his “friends” outside, in the parking lot where flanelinhas (street peddlers) worked – all black.
In his early 20s, in the trainee program of a “big Brazilian organization” he had dreamed of working for, he says that the manager used to call him “neguinho do pastoreio” (little nigger of the pasture).” Sometimes also a macaco (monkey).
“He said that I was lucky not to be a negro beiçudo (big-lipped black), ser boa pinta (boa aparência, in this case, not so ugly), speak well and not be stupid,” he recalls.
Most recently, in his early 30s, he discovered an e-mail exchange at a company he consulted for in which employees called him a “macaco” and mocked his style, and his wearing Lacoste shirts. “Where have you ever seen, a negro com pinta de branco (black with a white style),” he read in a message. X. says he had access to an e-mail exchange by chance, and took the case to a superintendent. The case was swept under the rug. Shortly thereafter, X. was fired.
“Unfortunately we still have this cancer in Brazilian society, and there is still this popular frenzy that associates blacks with rogues, vagabonds and other pejorative adjectives that populate the collective imagination,” he says.
‘The cause is that of all of us’
X. met the president of Bayer Brasil through LinkedIn, and went through a series of interviews for a position at Bayer. He didn’t get the job, but the two remained in touch, also because of the renowned performance of Theo van der Loo n promoting diversity in the corporate world.
Van der Loo is a Brazilian, the son of Dutch citizens, and has been the president of Bayer since 2011. The company has four thousand employees in Brazil, of which 14% are black, according to an internal census conducted in 2014.
In 2015, Van der Loo received the personality award of the year of the Fórum São Paulo Diverso, in the category of stimulating affirmative actions. He always keeps a lookout for professionals of African descent who can fill the company frameworks – or, if the profile is not suitable for Bayer, that he can help position in other companies through his extensive network of contacts, as he sought to do with X.
“I was trying to find companies that could fit into his profile,” he says. “We talked the other day over the phone and he told this story. I decided to post that comment out of revolt,” he said indignantly.
“I never imagined that my comment would generate so much discussion. I started receiving a lot of emails from people who didn’t want to expose themselves publicly, reporting that they had situations similar to X. Things are much more frequent and profound than I imagined.”
In the hundreds of comments generated by the post, some looked to van der Loo himself, with criticism for speaking on behalf of the black cause. He says that his intention is by no means to take a leading role in this struggle.
“The cause is of all of us. The one that has to be out front are the afrodescendentes (African descendants). I want to only be the messenger, I want to help. It’s important that the society knows about these cases that are being relayed in an anonymous way.”
Van der Loo has become engaged to raise awareness among peers and promote a “proactive attitude” in the pursuit of more racial diversity in the corporate world.
“It’s no use only for HR to implement programs for diversity. If the CEO (the company president) does not show interest and commitment, it will not happen much, because ultimately the managers hire. “
In addition to the internal policy of increasing diversity within Bayer, he is part of the CEO Legacy group, formed last year by Fundação Dom Cabral, with work groups formed with a focus on different social causes. He has embraced the cause of racial integration and has been formulating a plan of action to share experiences and bring successful models to other companies.
“Brazil has a kind of veiled apartheid,” says van der Loo. “More than 50% of the population is made up of Afro-descendants,” he said. “In the companies, you only see these people in the factory, and very few in the offices. The country won’t advance if it doesn’t manage to overcome these differences.”
X. didn’t reveal which company it was that “did not interview blacks”. He only says it’s “large” and ensures that the reporter probably has products from there, just like he already has. He competed for an intermediate management position and had already gone through a stage in the selection process with the human resources coordinator.
When he returned to the second and fateful interview at the company, the same coordinator who had interviewed him before took him to the manager’s office. “Have you ever noticed that I don’t hire blacks?”, the executive asked the coordinator in the room, seeing, but not looking, at the candidate.
X. claims to be a “quiet and well-resolved man”, and therefore maintained his composure in the face of verbal aggression. He thanked him for the opportunity and left the room.
“I thought it was a disrespect and inelegant for those who are already at the level of leadership.” The treatment was really deplorable. But his position has nothing to do with me, for me, ethnic or gender bias is an intellectual limitation. It denotes how limited a person is.”
X. says he remains confident in finding a job that is on par with his resume and the trajectory he has been following.
“I feel at peace because I know who I am. As a representative of the Afro ethnic group in Brazil, I want to be a reference for other young people from the periphery – so that they have references other than sambistas (samba musicians), pagodeiros (pagode musicians) or futebol players, and know that if they study , Seek to develop their skills, accumulate culture, they will be able to be dignified citizens.”