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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.