Why dressing up as the big d*ck “negão” is racist; New Year’s Eve party causes firing of Brazilian worker, director and president in multinational company

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Note from BW of Brazil: Here we go again. You know, I still vividly remember when I discovered the then new phone app that was just starting to blow up in Brazil. I was teaching English in a small school in the periphery of SP. That particular class was small, with only four students; three teens, consisting of two girls and one guy, and then an older student in his 40s. I noticed one night that one of the female students in this two-class just could NOT put her cell phone down. She would pick it up, type something in 5-10 seconds put it back on her desk only to pick it up and repeat the gesture 20-30 seconds later. After watching this go on for about 15 minutes I finally stopped the lesson and asked, “’Beatriz (false name) what are doing on the phone that’s so important?” “It’s WhatsApp teacher,” she replied. “WhatsApp? What’s that?” “You never heard of it? It’s a new phone app to communicate with your friends.” “OK, but text messages have been on phones for a long time.” “No, teacher, WhatsApp is MUCH better.”

WhatsApp

Although I suggested she use her phone after class, I didn’t argue with her. After all, her parents were paying for class, I was getting paid, so I wasn’t going to argue. It was her time. It was probably another month or so before everyone I knew was telling me contact them by WhatsApp. Later, companies, employers and anyone advertising something would present not only their phone numbers and/or e-mails to reach them, but also their WhatsApp numbers. And as Brazilians always “Brazilian-ize” pronunciations of things coming out the US, people were first pronouncing it as “Whas-soppy” and then just “Zap” and “ZapZap”. The Brazilian pronunciation of this app led to having my own English corrected for the first time since….I couldn’t even remember. I just remember talking to a friend of mine from Oakland, California who was planning his trip to Brazil. To make communication easier when he arrived, I asked if he used “Whus-soppy”. He was like, “Whus-sopppy? What’s that?” I then described the popular app to him to which he slowed me down and corrected me. “It’s WhatsAPP”, with a more open open mouth “a”. Wow. I’m speaking like Brazilians and now an American brotha is checking my English!

Anyway, as time went on, people started adding me to various “ZapZap” groups, usually devoted to the theme of black issues in SP or Brazil as a whole. But then I was also added to another group of a particular family I knew quite well, but this group didn’t speak of anything serious. I spoke of this before. In this group, the guys of the family posted all sorts of ridiculous jokes (even sometimes funny), futebol, beer, party pix, memes and women…lots and lots of naked, sexually suggestive photos and hardcore porn videos of white women. I never participated in the group but I didn’t exit because it really revealed a lot about how they thought outside of the family environment.

In the various groups, I noted how many photos and You Tube videos I had seen online years earlier when I was still living in the US were now being shared in Brazil. I don’t exactly remember when someone sent the photo of the naked black man wearing the hat with his shlong literally hanging down like a third leg. After having seen the photo once or twice, I didn’t have the urge to see the photo again. Fast forward to Brazil. It was a few years after WhatsApp had debuted and became a literal sensation among cell phone users that the pix of the “three-legged brotha” started circulating in the WhatsApp group of the twenty or so, mostly black men, of the family in SP. At some point it seemed to have become an obsession. I started thinking, “Why is it that you guy (most married women and with children) are so obsessed with the photo of this dude?” I never verbalized the question, but I did wonder.

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It’s funny, when I covered the first story of a blackface interpretation of the “three legged brotha”, I didn’t even realize that, with the hat, clothes and painted face, the white men in the photo were actually imitating “Mr. Third Leg”. So, as yet another story in which he is the source of imitation has appeared, it seems that the fascination continues. Hyper-sexualization in the social imagination tells us quite a bit about the “place” of black men in the minds of the people. And Brazil is clearly not immune to this stereotype, let us keep in mind the story of the black Brazilian man who lived be 130 years and fathered 200 children, the media, personal recollections and, as we shall see, in the piece below, the ways that these stereotypes continue to play out in the collective consciousness of the people.

Lázaro Ramos
In 2014 interview, actor Lázaro Ramos commented on the stereotype of black men having large sexual organs

In 2014, when actor Lázaro Ramos was asked about the stereotype of black men having large sexual organs, he candidly replied that in his younger years he took advantage of the expectation, but today thinks from a more politicized perspective:

“As a teenager, the expectation of you having a pauzão (big dick) and being good in bed is wonderful, everyone will want to give it to you. But it is important to reflect on these stereotypes and these statements,” he said. He went to say that “(These stereotypes) may seem innocent, but serve to keep the person in a certain place. This is very dangerous; it goes from sexuality to capacities, to aesthetic standards. Believing that there are certain roles that must be occupied in society by certain profiles is very serious,” he said.

Marília Gabriela posta foto ousada - negro nu
2013 photo of journalist Marília Gabriela and nude black man provoked controversy

And for black men who do continue to revel in this image, consider the above image of journalist/entreviewer Marília Gabriela. What do you think when you see the photo of Gabriela embracing a nude, nameless, faceless black man? For those who salivate over the idea of having a blond white woman, would the fantasy still be tempting if the photo related a historic fact? The image was released in 2013 in celebration of the re-release of the book Anjo Negro (black angel), but does the image not tell us that, as a fully clothed white woman, that Gabriela is portraying the image of dominance of a black man as her property, just as in the slavery era? For me, the image says, “I own you and will do with you whatever I please, including enjoying your sexual services.” As the man is nameless and faceless, he represents any black man and his nakedness in front of a fully clothed blond, white woman suggests his inferiority in relation to her in the social world. From this perspective, I wonder how many black men would still like to be in this scenario.

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“Negão of WhatsApp” in New Year’s Eve party causes firing of Brazilian in multinational company

Image of the costume in social networks made the head office of the company in the US request the firing of the employee, and also the director and president, who tried to soften up the situation

Courtesy of Jornal do Tocantins

Costume at party of multinational leads to firing of president

An end-of-the-year costume party for employees of Brazil’s multinational Salesforce subsidiary in December caused the dismissal of an employee, commercial director, and chief executive officer. According to the version circulating, the employee dressed in the popular meme “Negão do WhatsApp” (big black man of WhatsApp). He put a towel on his shoulder, donned a hat, and improvised a prosthesis to imitate the personality’s penis.

The image of the costumed one, published in Facebook, was not well seen in the headquarters in San Francisco, United States, that demanded the resignation of the worker. The commercial director tried to keep him on, and the headquarters, then, decided to fire him as well. Until the president of the subsidiary tried to interfere and soften the situation, but suffered the same fate of the other employees.

According to the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, people close to the case considered the punishment exaggerated and contradictory to the discourse of the company, in defense of diversity.

Sought (for comment), Salesforce confirmed the firings and said the executives made important contributions during their performance at the company. By company policy, Salesforce said it would not comment on the reason for the departure of employees.

The picture of a WhatsApp joke caused his firing, that of his superior and the general manager of Salesforce in Brazil.

Here’s why dressing up as a “negão of WhatsApp” is racist

Even if having a “pau grande” (big dick) is seen as something positive for many men, historically this is a stereotype used by whites to dominate blacks.

By Aline Ramos

Folha de S.Paulo released last Friday, the 5th, this news, confirming a story that was circulating on Twitter.

The humorous character born in Whatsapp, has circulated for more than a year on the internet, has generated controversy before and reinforces the racist stereotype of the sexualized and animalized black man.

The decision divided opinions, but many people considered fair the dismissal for not being a joke, but a manifestation of racism.

Even if having a “pau grande” is seen as a good thing for many men, this is a stereotype used by whites to dominate blacks throughout history.

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In the United States, slave owners called black men who fit into this stereotype of “The Black Bucks” (Mandingo in Portuguese and English). Historian Suzane Jardim explains that black slaves were called “mandingos” considered dangerous and untamable. There was also the idea that these men should be restrained because they had sexual instincts that could pervert daughters and wives of white masters. But this kind of thinking about black men was not uniquely American. Although we did not create a character specifically within this stereotype in the period of slavery, the idea held and adapted over time.

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Translation of above comment: “If I understood the reason for the firings, they were correct given that the costume constitutes a racist expression (imposes on the black man the condition of animal) and if the company in question doesn’t admit this practice in its environment it acted correctly in firing the worker and his supporters.”

In the United States, slave owners called black men who fit into this stereotype of “The Black Bucks” (The Mandingo).

But this kind of thinking about black men was not uniquely American. Although we did not create a character specifically within this stereotype in the period of slavery, the idea held and adapted over time.

7 - TV Pirata
Still from Globo TV’s ‘TV Pirata” from early 90s depicting whipping of a slave

And anyone who thinks it’s in the distant past is wrong. Until the 1990s, TV Globo’s TV Pirata humor program featured skits reinforcing this racist stereotype. (see video here)

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In skit, white actor in blackface is tied to whipping post by white woman

 In this sketch in which a white man dressed in black (blackface) takes lashes of a white woman. She explains that she brought the trunk from Miami and that the “slaves nowadays are releasing themselves and enjoying a sadomasochism in a good way”. And then he smiles, as if he were liking it.

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In this sketch in which a white man made up as a black man takes lashes of a white woman. She explains that she brought the post from Miami and that the “slaves nowadays are releasing themselves and enjoying a sadomasochism in a good way”. And then he smiles, as if he were liking it.

The sexualized black man appears several times in Brazilian tele-dramaturgy.

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‘Retrato de Mulher’ (Portrait of a Woman) (1993), with actor Norton Nascimento

In the series Retrato de Mulher (Portrait of Woman) (1993), actor Norton Nascimento portrayed Josemar, a conqueror who even had nuns as his victims. In the novela Em Família (2014), the actor Marcello Melo Jr. interpreted the jailer and sexual maniac Jairo.

'Em Família'- Marcello Melo Jr
Actor Marcello Melo Jr in a scene from the 2014 Globo novela ‘Em Família’

And more recently, in the novela Liberdade Liberdade (Freedom Freedom) (2016), the actor David Junior interpreted a sexualized slave. That as he himself said, “didn’t even have clothes”.

David Junior in Liberdade Liberdade
Actor David Junior in Globo novela ‘Liberdade Liberdade’

The “Whatsapp negão” is the proof of it all. The character’s exaggerated penis reinforces the imagem animalizada e hipersexualizada do negro (animalized and hypersexualized image of the black man).

Source: Jornal do Tocantins, Buzzfeed

About Marques Travae 2881 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

2 Comments

  1. Totally disgusting! More negative stereotyping! The big Black Buck!!! They don’t have an original idea in Hollywood or Brazil for that matter. These Europeans will never change. These racist bastards make me sick! But thanks for uploading the truth.

  2. This sort of racism supports the myth of racial democracy in Brazil! Just because a non-Afro-Brasileiro has sex with a Afro-Brasileiro doesn’t indicate absence of racism, it may very well indicate it for his/her desire of a subservient sex servant.

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