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.