President Lulu Speaks of “Irrational Behavior of White” Bankers: Racialized Depression?

Brazil’s president, Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva (“Lulu,” as many call him), recently made a dramatic comment on the world’s current economic depression and causes, noting he did not know any “black or indigenous bankers” who created the depression (or “major recession” as those who caused it like to put it). He added a much-criticized point, “this crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes.” While he was making in a more exaggerated and flamboyant way a point I made a little while back–and one would want to qualify this to accent these are mostly men (and many with brown eyes), his anger on behalf of the world’s 80-percent majority that is not white and his point about who did this are on target.

In the New York Times, Maureen Dowd started off an op-ed piece by calling him names:

As international lunacy goes, it was hard to beat the pope saying that condoms spread AIDS. But Brazil’s president, known simply as Lula, gave it his best shot.

But then went on to mostly confirm his argument, as with this bit:

And it is true, of course, that the upper-crust, underwhelming Anglo-Saxon leaders who allowed America’s financial markets to morph into louche casinos, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, were very, very white men with blue eyes.

The current, unprecedented global economic disaster and great global impoverishment are mostly about the predatory actions of a few hundred elite whites, almost all men, who acted out a rather extreme form of capitalist greed and hubris. (Only a very small handful were people of color or women.) And, sadly, this economic crisis is being managed by many of the same white men who helped to create it, such as the U.S. treasury secretary. According to savvy economists like Harvard’s Ken Rogoff, these men are now seriously misrepresenting how bad the global economic situation is. In this extended (24:10) PBS interview, Rogoff discusses the scope of the current economic crisis:

Rogoff predicts something like FOUR years to clean up the mess and restore the world economy, maybe a decade if current U.S. and Western policies do not change. And he predicts substantial political and civic upheaval by next year, especially in  countries without a democratic tradition like China.

Rogoff’s points seem hard to refute, and the negative impact of this mostly elite-white-male-caused world crisis will hit hardest those not in that privileged racial/class/gender category. The old white racial frame is long associated with a racialized arrogance that leads many elite white men to think only in terms of their predatory and exploitative, me-ism, values and rhetoric.

One possible outcome of national and global civic unrest/upheaval may be a political shift to the authoritarian right–and possibly in the United States, which itself has such a weak left (for example, democratic socialist) tradition – a democratic left tradition that may in fact save numerous countries in Europe and on other continents where social safety nets mean less pain and suffering for ordinary citizens in economic catastrophes like this one.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this global depression is how rarely the mass media actually probe its depths, its underlying creation, its elite-white-male causality. The mainstream outlets all seem to be naively pro-capitalistic, an echo chamber ignoring the deep class, racial, and gender structures of this very capitalistic global disaster.


  1. jwbe

    who wants to deny that in the white mind money is all and capitalism the only religion of whites?
    The problem with whites as a group is that they always only want to have the benefits and then start their whining and blaming others when their own way leads them into a dead end street. This is perhaps a good time for a revolution with enough white people realizing that we will also kill us when we will continue the way we are going. Whites are truly blue-eyed (naive) in the belief that money can buy the world we are so eager to destroy. And this what we call ‘progressive’ with our Eurocentric lense – the industrial revolution, our inventions, cars, the nuclear bomb etc. – it is about time that something or somebody stops us. For our children’s sake.

  2. Mike

    Why don’t we question the government’s intentions? Why are we letting experts take control of our lives? Are we giving into panic and paranoia? Why are we striving to keep political jobs intact? How long are we going to keep ourselves at odds with each other? Do we help anything by pointing blame? Is mistrust in people the real problem? Shouldn’t we allow companies to fail? Are we being told the whole story? Do we, at times, let our anger take control of our lives?

    Think what you want, find what you want, form your own opinion, but please think critically of everything not just what you are for or against. Be continent with unanswered questions. There is a missing piece to every puzzle, and if we think we’ve figured it all out, we’ve conformed, in my opinion, to a group consciousness that seeks only power and control. If we give and allow people to run our lives, are we not to blame for giving them the permission?

    Do not let anyone dictate your life. Struggle onward and live.

  3. My goodness Mike! You are all about quesitons, huh?

    I’ll respond in a much more congenial way than earlier.

    The reason we seek blame is that if we find out who’s at fault, we can keep them from doing it again AND punish them. Giving this some critical thought, if people really did blame Tim Geithner and his elk, he wouldn’t be treasury secretary. Or, at least, I hope not. Then again, I really don’t know how much at fault he is. I haven’t delved into this whole thing that much. Granted, there’re articles I could read that claim to prove Timmy-G has some fault in all this, but they’re on some left-leaning sites who appear to be an anti-Obama as they were anti-Bush. . . . But I digress. The point is that assigning blame does serve a practical purpose. I find that the notion of “not looking to point fingers,” even when coming from a president I volunteered for, only serves to obfuscate the issue and let predators off the hook.

    As to the rest of your questions, I do agree they should be asked.

    And for my response to the article – I’m with “Lulu” on this one. Thinking of this from a racialized perspective, if working/middle class whites honestly saw upper class whites as their victimizers, it’d be much easier to join with them for a left-leaning revolution. I guess, part of the reason I don’t read the articles on those “left leaning sites” is that I feel they obfuscate as much as they seek to clarify things. If the proletariat (sp?) is going to join ranks, we all have to point at the same enemy AND realize that we’re not each other’s enemy. I think some sites do harm by addressing this crisis in a de-racialized way. Because at the end of the day, when it’s time from the proletariat to join ranks, too many people will still conceptualize criminality as black. I do think it’s important to show that the crimes that do the most damage are white, even if it’s stipulated white and ridiculously wealthy. Then maybe we can address criminality as a matter of class and privilege, not race and lack of access. I hope I make sense.

  4. Sorry for repeated comments, just one more thought – Dowd’s response demonstrates the tendency of white people to latch on to the one thing they can find “offensive” instead of addressing the issue at hand. For example, the response to Holder’s “nation of cowards” line that was just one line in the beginning of a detailed explanation. It’s an effective way of obfuscating the issue and blaming someone of an unrelated offense. It’s a way NOT to talk about racism or, in this case, white “collared” crime.

  5. Joe

    Time magazine just featured the Lulu quote, and Dowd has some details on what he said. You are right, Dowd, a supposed liberal and like most white media commentators, just cannot handle a tough critique of whiteness, no matter how accurate it may be. She should at least have thought about Lulu likely representing the views of much of the other 80 percent of the world’s population. Being white means rarely having to think critically about it — indeed rarely having to think about it.

  6. Mike

    N01KState- I’m glad we can agree that I am all about questions (bad humor).

    To be honest, I tend to think politics and government are more to blame than any one particular group. That stems mainly from my personal belief that all political agendas and governments are corrupt, no matter how noble their cause is. Please excuse the anarchist connotation, even though I am a little that way, but I tend question that standard and belief as well.

    In my mind, nothing good ever comes from pointing blame. Yes, it is good understanding who’s to blame, but too many problems stem from people who demand things quickly. Yes, it is good to be practical, but it is also good understand many things aren’t practical in regards to humanity. I have always questioned news media norms, which is part of the reason why I don’t watch television news. And I have noticed what tends to be a standard of representation.

    I do enjoy critiques upon whiteness, as well as understand them. However, I need to ask more questions: At what point do we move beyond that? At what point do we need to understand our limits? At what point will we try to look for the exceptions? And what does it all mean?

    It is better to be critical of everything, in my view.

    I’m really glad you choose to respond to my comments and questions. You certainly provide a vast array of understanding for me. I certainly apologize for any frustrations I cause, but I have to be honest, sometimes it’s fun to cause frustration, even if I’m causing it to myself.

  7. Virginian

    How pathetic …
    The money changers are mostly jewish. They do not claim to be white… Do some homework & you will find the root of the evil. BTW – Most of the productive building & advancements you enjoy today were because of the “white” man you spew venom about… Time to be honest – whites have propelled the other races to where they are today & what gratitude they receive? Still being blamed for others lack of creativity, discipline, & work ethic. You’re a sorry bunch here….

  8. Seattle in Texas

    Oh? Hmfh. Not to move off topic as I always do…but Jewish folks are of all color and many are duel/multi-ethnic. I don’t know, Virginian, are Jews white? Please clarify yourself. It seems those who are Jewish do not have much control over how people label and define them (as with any other non-white and many non-Christian groups) and whether they are white or non-white depends on not only on the locality and social surroundings, but also the immediate white supremacist agendas. By stating they are white, then it relieves white non-Jewish folks of much responsibility relating to systemic racism and white supremacy. How convenient. In this sense, it becomes a benefit to claim them white. They become the perfect scapegoat. Plus they can say, “see, you are just as responsible as I” or “you are even more responsible and we are your victims” Further, I suspect the assertion that Jews are white in the U.S. might also have something to do with attempting to weakening the ethnicity very slowly and across time of which I will not go into—but in this sense I beleive it is clearly a white supremacist agenda at a large and deep level so far as I am concerned. On the other hand, they are clearly not white or welcome in many areas throughout this nation, let alone even superficial settings at times. Some folks are outright honest about it while in many settings where people consider themselves to be anti-racist, do not allow (even if unconsciously) Jewish folks to their backstage and hold them to just the fringes of their front stage settings. By and large however, the front-stage is fine, after all, that’s where good manners are displayed, the poker faces are put on, and the politically correct behavior is displayed. It’s all pretentious—gives everybody that warm fuzzy feeling, awwww. It’s like holding up, as somebody very dear to me suggested many years ago, when people do or say something that is racist, just pat them on their upper arm and say, “Oh now now, you’re not racist.”
    Are there any symbols that hurt or offend non-Jewish white folks in general that compares to the swastika or even the sheet? Are there such sayings about whites, such as, “Jew ‘em down” or stereotypes about both Jewish men and women that compare to white folks? I know racist whites and whites who do not think their racist take great offense when they are called on their racist actions and words. But that’s no comparison in my view. And when they are called, they muscle their white privilege to assert being called out was innappropriate, insulting, and so on–as if they have every right to uphold and protect the white racism. As if the source calling it is so entirely in the wrong….
    On Jews and whiteness. That is a whole different discussion. But what I will say is that, like anybody else or any other group, Jewish folks are not prefect, and some have done and said things that are racist and terribly embarrassing and hurtful for the group as a whole. Of course when this occurs, it then through stereotypes reflects badly on Jewish folks as a group and stereotypes are amplified and reinforced, which often have lasting negative effects. The one thing different about Jewish communities from white communities I would say, is that they by and large take responsibility for these things. White folks most generally on the other hand seem to be more concerned about excusing the actions of other white folks and finding excuses and scapegoats.
    In addition, Jewish folks are heavily involved with works that involve improving society in numerous ways regardless of what social stratum they reside in (example: a homeless Jewish woman donating time at homeless shelters and helping with feeding the homeless elderly—sorry if that shattered a stereotype, actually no apologies) and as a group by and large they vote differently. If my memory serves me correctly, approximately 20 -25% voted republican, the rest democratic. Are all Jews rich? Are all Jews exceptionally intelligent? Etc., etc., etc. Or, are they all cheap? Selfish? Egoistic? Etc., etc., etc., Or, are they all liars, shysters, swindlers, etc., etc., etc. It seems the majority of folks seem to think all the stereotypes are true….
    In closing, I do take the position that Jewish folks who either consider themselves white, pass as white, or who knows, have an equal responsibility in dismantling the white supremacist foundation this nation was built upon as do non-Jewish white folks. Anybody with light skin in this nation is automatically privileged by that alone (I do believe there is a skin tone continuum related to privilege in this nation also)—regardless of ethnicity and religious orientation. I believe in general Jews in the U.S. (perhaps 75% or so?) share that sentiment in combating racism and social inequality and feel a shared duty and obligation, regardless of skin tone. While Jewish folks may not share the responsibility of slavery, etc., they do share the responsibility of combating racism and other inequalities as much as anybody else—this is a given if not commonsense for most.
    And lastly, in a book I am working through, David Roediger nails a point that is so important. He notes that the experiences for Jewish folks are different in the U.S., even though they may have experienced racism and other forms of persecution. Their experiences here in the U.S., regardless of the history in Europe, cannot be compared to African Americans with the reason being that Jewish folks fled Europe for hope and inspiration to attain a better life, while Africans came to North American on very different terms and with not the same hopes. In addition, they have achieved upward mobility as a group that has been denied to African Americans as a group for over 400 centuries. In this light, pretty much all ethnic groups that came to the U.S. after slavery, etc., still benefit and tap into attainment of unjust privileges and wealth that stems directly back to slavery. (He notes that the number of people lynched representing several ethnic groups, Italian, Jewish, Irish, etc. is only a small handful in comparison to those who were African American) But I do think, as Roediger points out, the historical persecution Jewish folks have experienced throughout history allows many as a group to empathize with the historical and ongoing persecution of African Americans in the U.S., up into current times. This is another dimension that I think differentiates Jewish folks as a collective from non-Jewish white folks.

  9. jwbe

    Most of the productive building & advancements you enjoy today were because of the “white” man you spew venom about

    what is productive in the alleged advancements of whites/Euros?

    Still being blamed for others lack of creativity, discipline, & work ethic.

    you get your infos from a book printed in the 19th century?

  10. “whites have propelled the other races to where they are today & what gratitude they receive? ”

    I’ll be honest, sorry Seattle, I haven’t read your comment and may be repeating something you said.

    Here’s some unhonesty – If you spend centuries advancing yourself on the backs of others, you cannot expect gratitude for later tossing down some rope.

    Gratitude indeed! “Oh, thank ya, Massa for not killing me for learning how to read and write!”

  11. Oh, and not Jewish, but the whole “money changers are Jewish” thing is insulting to me.

    “white man” we lash at, indeed! “Waa waa waa! They just wanna ignore all we’ve done for them and focus on our destroying the world economy!”

  12. Marc G

    Lulu’s characterization of the responsible parties was a thing of beauty. That liberal whites find it difficult to digest should come at no surprise. If it weren’t for liberal whites, the US would be much further down the road to becoming a civil part of the global community. And because of the US’ hegemony over so much of the world, liberal whites by logical extension have in the face of independence movements of the 60s helped undergird white supremacy globally.

    Lulu’s comments and others like it will become more common in the years to come. Hopefully enough of the currently apolitical white population will move to acknowledging what is happening and who is doing it. I say the currently apolitical whites because I don’t hold out a lot of hope for white liberals moving. Their class interests in the status quo are too strong.

    By the way, that IMF economist in the video was horrible. He seemed to be very happy that he was being interviewed and on the brink of some type of laughter the entire time. And that fool Brancaccio threw nothing but softballs. Of course. How do you interview a top International Monetary Fund manager as if he/she is an innocent, objective bystander to global financial chaos?

    I would say that the interview was worthless but it does serve as yet another example of how obtuse white liberals can be in the face of anything. For Brancaccio to even have that guy on the show giving his ‘perspective’ is flabbergasting. For the IMF guy to know he’s safe going on PBS just makes me sad. There is no big media remaining that represents workers.

    Notice how many times Brancaccio suggests and asks the IMF economist about ‘restoring’ the global economy. As if the global economy was a good system before this happened.

  13. IMF economists actually think they’re doing a good thing! I’m reading a book titled The White Man’s Burden. I can’t remember the author, but he explains how the IMF isn’t helping developing countries actually develop all that much. And his explanation is, of course, more documented and better detailed and argued than I describe.


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