Black Women of Brazil

The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent

“Go catch the next vine”: book ‘Black Executives: Racism and Diversity in the Business World’ reveals the racism that black executives face


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Note from BW of Brazil: “Get an education”. “Get a good job”. “Be the best you can be”. These are some of the ideas people will share when the question is possibility of black social ascension. When the topic is race in Brazil, we often first hear a denial that race plays any factor in a person’s ability to get a job or ascend in the social/business world. If the black individual follows this advice, said racism (that doesn’t exist in the first place) will cease to be problem. The problem with this idea is that it’s simply not true. We’ve seen numerous examples that show Afro-Brazilians having the qualifications to earn top positions in their chosen professions and still experiencing the sentiment that they don’t belong in the area that they occupy. We saw a good example of this today in a previous post when a patient refused being treated by a black doctor because he didn’t want to be served by a “crioulo” (nigger). No one is saying here that a black Brazilian can’t attain whatever it is he or she wants in life, but rather that even after going through the struggle and commitment to finally get there, they are often still not openly welcomed. The report presented today references a study that was cited in three previous articles. It’s great to see that this dissertation will now be available in book form and will contribute to the ongoing study of the question of race in Brazil. 

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“Go catch the next vine”: book reveals the racism that black executives face

By Ricardo Marchesan

Hearing that “the 11:30 vine is at the side” when he found the company’s elevator was full. Almost getting fired for “being worthless, as well as black,” in the supervisor’s view. Being called by a colleague “preto filho da puta” (black son of a bitch)….

Such cases were reported by black executives from São Paulo to Pedro Jaime de Coelho Júnior, professor of sociology at ESPM (Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing or College of Propaganda and Marketing), in interviews for his doctoral thesis in 2011. The academic work was the origin of the book Executivos Negros: Racismo e Diversidade no Mundo Empresarial (Black Executives: Racism and Diversity in the Business World) (Edusp), released this week.

Analyzing the question, he tells the professional trajectory of black executives, men and women, who entered the labor market in the late 1970s. He then compares these experiences with those of another generation, of young blacks who began to work at the beginning of this millennium.

Among the conclusions of the study, the professor noticed advances, with the reduction of racism in the workplace, but still sees a long way to go to achieve a de facto equality, since the participation of blacks in executive positions is very low in Brazil.

According to data from the Ethos institute, in a study of the 500 largest companies operating in the country, they represent 4.7% of the executive staff. In management, one level down in the hierarchy, this percentage rises slightly, to 6.3%. Among supervisors it reaches 25.9%.

UOL separated some stories told by these executives portrayed in the book. Episodes of racism experienced in their professional trajectory. The interviews were conducted by the professor between 2008 and 2010.

“Cipó das 11h30” (11:30 vine)

Roberto* was 52 years old and was manager of a large Brazilian company in the industrial segment at the time the professor interviewed him. Born in Minas Gerais, he went to São Paulo to work at the age of 15 in the early 1970s.

He told of an episode he had experienced without detailing the date. Once he was waiting for the elevator, which, when it arrived, was crowded. From inside, someone shouted: “The 11:30 vine is next door.” The racist joke generated a lot of laughter among those present, according to Roberto, who only had a sheepish  smile.

Roberto says that he developed a defense “technique” in the second company in which he worked, where his colleagues “only told black jokes”. He memorized a series of such jokes, and told them before anyone came to tell him any.

He says it was a way he found to defend himself from the situation, anticipating the joke and removing of sting.

“Preto filho da puta” (Black son of a bitch).”

Roberto also tells another story that occurred in the first company in which he worked, around 1974.

At the location, a black gentleman who worked in cleaning, named Benedito, used to clean the work tables at lunch time, so as not to disturb the service. On that day, some people were having lunch at the office. When the cleaning professional arrived, he asked a guy to let him clean his desk.

The guy then turned to Benedicto and said; “Look, crioulo (creole/nigger), can’t you see I’m having lunch?” At the time, Roberto replied, “Why are you referring to him like that, as crioulo? He has a name and you know that his name is Benedito.” The colleague then replied, “You too are a preto filho de puta.”

Roberto took a stapler from the table and threw it at his head, hurting him quite a bit. Then the area director arrived to find out what had happened, and Roberto explained the episode, justifying his reaction.

The guy was dismissed immediately, the same happened with Roberto a short time later. Asked by the professor if the episode caused the dismissal, Roberto stated that no one had said that, but he believed that it contributed.

“Did you all bring a black woman here?”

Mara was 57 years old and was a market research manager for a multinational company. She recounts that at one point in her professional career she was hired by a bank to be an assistant to a person who worked with her previously at a research institute.

The head of the department, however, didn’t receive the hiring well. The colleague reported to Mara that he said “Nossa! Vocês trouxeram uma negra para cá?” (Wow! You all brought a black woman here?), To which the colleague replied: “You requested to hire a competent person, and with those qualifications I only know her.”

Over time, though, the boss acknowledged Mara’s good work, so much so that she was promoted when her colleague left the company.

Bagulho, além de ser preta” (worthless, besides being black)

Executives report not only episodes of racism, but also of machismo and sexual harassment. This is the case of Vanda, who was 52 years old and was a labor relations manager for an American multinational company in the industrial sector.

She says the supervisors in the area where she worked usually demanded that the employees go out with them so they could get a promotion.

They, however, liked white women more, so Vanda says that was not the case with her, “thankfully.” On the other hand, she always ended up in the worst places, in sectors with more problems.

At one point, the American parente company demanded that there a cut of employees be made in production, and they collected employees’ badges for evaluation. As she handed in hers, Vanda heard a white supervisor tell the director, “Pode cortar essa, porque isso daí é bagulho e além do mais é preta!” (You can cut this one, because this one here is worthless and besides that, she’s black!)

Even though he said that, the supervisor was not punished. But she didn’t lose her job. She went to another area, with another supervisor who liked her work.

* Respondents’ names were changed in the book to preserve identities

Source: UOL Economia

One comment on ““Go catch the next vine”: book ‘Black Executives: Racism and Diversity in the Business World’ reveals the racism that black executives face

  1. PTR
    November 23, 2016

    A correction: the translation for “bagulho” is certainly not “worthless”, but “really ugly”.

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