“Who is this black nigger? Is he your father or husband?”: Woman says she was fired from job on first day after owner saw her husband

Woman claims she was fired after store owner saw her black husband
Mulher perde emprego no 1º dia
Woman claims she was fired after store owner saw her black husband

“Who is this black nigger? Is he your father or husband?”: Woman says she was fired from job on first day after owner saw her husband

By Marques Travae

Allow me to say, when dealing with Brazil, Latin America as a whole and the situation of African descendants, one can never really be surprised by blatantly racist incidents anymore. So when I read about today’s piece, my first thought was that persons of visible African ancestry are ALWAYS possible victims of racial discrimination, regardless of the circumstances. This was my conclusion after reading the story of 25-year old Jaqueline Torres Barbosa.

The young woman had recently been hired to work in a store in the city of Três Lagoas, located about 200 miles from Campo Grande, the capital city of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. On Saturday, December 15th, she was fired from her new job having worked for less than two hours and having sold over R$200 worth of items. What was the reason for being fired on her first day? Well, in Jaqueline’s view, it was because of her husband, José Wellington Honorato dos Santos, 37, a black man.

Jaqueline had been seeking employment for several months and had distributed her resume to various establishments in hopes of landing a steady job. Having been interviewed by phone and told to come and start working at a store, she thought everything was working out. At least until they saw her husband.

“They called me and asked me some questions. I didn’t have my bike and my husband was taking me. We arrived hand in hand there and the owner already started looking at him different. I worked, I made sales of some R$200 and then he called me and said: ‘Who is that crioulo preto (black nigger), is he your father or husband?’”, she explained.

After this brief exchange, Jacqueline was told to gather her things and get to stepping. As this exchange was the only thing Jacqueline could go by to explain the store’s actions, she logically concluded that this was the reason she was terminated so quickly.

“I was floored. I found it so strange because he told me to get my things because I would not be needed anymore. This was all after this comment he made about my husband. At the place there was no water for the employees, we had to take it from home,” she further detailed.

Jacqueline’s husband José, who is a rapper and a vendor of cleaning products, was also shocked by the management’s treatment of his wife. He later approached the store owner and questioned the businessman’s treatment of his wife and even recorded his exchange with the man.

“If I were in my man’s attitude I would go there and break his face, I would lose my reasoning, but me being a victim, I would end up being the plaintiff. He knew about my wife’s situation and I questioned him about why he dismissed her after asking if I was her father or husband and still calling me a preto crioulo. I didn’t think twice and I went to the police,” he recalls.

Racial discrimination is considered a crime in Brazil.

The store owner was contacted by press agencies to give his side of the story but hadn’t responded by the time the story was to be released. Jacqueline and José reported the incident at the 3rd Precinct Police Station of Três Lagoas as this incident could be considered a violation of the law against discrimination based on color or race.

After taking a look at the photo of the couple, I thought the case was even more bizarre. If one were to judge the husband and wife, depending on how the two are viewed in terms of race, one might ask, why would the owner fire Jacqueline because her husband was black? I don’t know how Jacqueline defines herself in terms of race, but she is clearly not white and for many, she could also be considered black. Not that her husband’s race should have anything to do with her job in the first place, but judging from the photo, he doesn’t seem to be much darker than his wife. But if he was slightly darker than his wife, we could be dealing with an incident that we just dealt with last week: colorism; a form of discrimination in which lighter-skinned persons of visible African ancestry are accepted easier in a world that discriminates against those whose appearances classify them as black.

These are the details I gathered about the story until I did a little more digging. As it turns out, the owner of the store is an immigrant from a neighboring South American country, Peru, and he took to social media to issue a statement on the accusation.

In a post taken from the Topshop Topshop clothing store website, the owner denied any racist actions:

“Oh my God, each thing. Why does this person have to speak ill of us? Because we’re foreigners, because of this? We are foreigners, but we are workers, we do not humiliate anyone, we do not offend anyone, we are not that way, what have we done wrong? Nothing! We called a girl to come and work with us. She stayed in the store, after almost two hours we saw that it would not work out, we dismissed her after two hours, and she still came back accompanied with her husband later, just to offend us,” wrote the businessman.

The business owner says the stores security cameras recorded Jacqueline’s actions from 9:58am , when she arrived. She was fired at 11:30am and by about 1:30pm, Jacqueline and her husband had returned to the store for further explanation over her termination.

The owner further stated:

“She assaulted us verbally and insulted us, but doing what, no one asked us anything, but she keeps saying things we didn’t do and even says that we are racist. How can this (be), we are foreigners, we know what racism is, but thank God we have cameras in the store.”

The lawyer of the store owner revealed that the businessman also filed the incident at the 1st Police Precinct with security camera images and said that the young woman’s employment was on a trial basis. The owner says that video images show Jaqueline walking around the store in a distracted manner for 90 minutes, which is why she was ultimately released.

Still according to the owner’s lawyer, an official at the Civil Police put in a call to the police chief saying that it would be necessary to discuss the situation with the store owner because the images of the video didn’t fall in line with what the victim claimed happened. The police also said they would continue looking at all of the images put together to come to a conclusion on the incident. If it is proven that the victim made false accusations, the appropriate measures would be taken against her.

Well, obviously it is still too early to tell in this case. But what I wonder at this point is if the victim can prove that the owner made a reference to her husband as a ‘crioulo preto’ because, even though the store owner didn’t directly address this issue, he denied any wrong doing. The video will also show if Jacqueline, in fact, made R$200 worth of sales. If she was fired for not doing her job, his would mean she got her husband involved under false pretenses.

It’s hard to say right now. I will simply make three points until further details are ascertained. 1) Racist incidents happen in Brazil everyday, a well-documented fact. 2) There is also documentation that people make false accusations of racism, often because of the very fact racism IS so common and 3) Racism against Afro-Peruvians in Peru is also well-documented, as seen by numerous reports such as this one, this one and this one, among countess others. As such, this could be a case of intercontinental racism in which a citizen of another racist South American country interjects his views on the black population of a neighborhood country.

Besides numerous incidents of racism, racist comments, jokes and actions on a daily basis, Brazil also has a huge problem with a continuous denial of the very existence of racism. All I can hope is that the young woman didn’t make up this story. Such incidents will simply add fuel to the fire of those who deny the existence of racism and those who say black Brazilians mimimi (whine) too much about something that is not a problem.

About Marques Travae 2952 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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