*Black Brazilians have brought back the empowerment phrase “It’s a black thing” – not only to draw attention to the lingering impact of racial subjugation in the country, but mainly to troll a prominent television anchorman who used the phrase in a racist way while in Washington D.C.
The quip – heavily used in the U.S. during the late eighties and early nineties, along with the phrase “you wouldn’t understand” – was said in a video that was recorded last year but that only surfaced this week in Brazil, according to The New York Times.
William Waack, an anchorman for Brazil’s largest television network, Globo, was preparing for a live shot with a guest, with the White House in the background, while covering the presidential campaign.
In response to loud honking from a nearby car, Waack said under his breath, “It’s a black thing. No doubt,” and laughed about it with his guest.
After the video started to circulate online Wednesday (Nov. 8), reaction denouncing Waack was so overwhelming that by Wednesday evening, the hashtag #ÉCoisaDePreto — Portuguese for “It’s a black thing” — was one of the top trending topics on Twitter in Brazil, used to highlight the accomplishments of famous black Brazilians like the 19th-century novelist and poet Machado de Assis, as well as global leaders, including Nelson Mandela, and sports stars and artists.
Many people have written on Twitter about their own struggles in a country with a long history of slavery and racism. One person wrote: “#It’sABlackThing my mother, a black, single woman, raising 7 children without the help of a white man (my father).”
Shortly before Waack was scheduled to anchor a news show later on Wednesday, Globo announced that it had “removed” him until the situation could be clarified.
“Globo is viscerally opposed to racism in all of its forms,” the company said in a statement, adding that Mr. Waack had made comments that “everything indicates were of a racist nature.”
The video was leaked by a former video editor for Globo, who said he was appalled by the remarks at the time but was afraid he could lose his job if he released the video to the public. The video editor, Diego Rocha Pereira, who no longer works for the network, said he had heard the comments as he sat in the network’s control room.
“I rewound the video to be sure, I couldn’t believe he would have said that,” he told the Jovem Pan radio station. “I was so disgusted, I recorded it on my cellphone.”
Waack has yet to respond. In its statement, Globo said, “Waack affirms he doesn’t remember what he said, given that the audio is not clear, but he offers sincere apologies to those who feel they have been offended.”