Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brazil nut

The UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was apparently embarrassed when, while on a recent trip to Brazil to discuss economic matters, he was treated to the Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio "Lula" da Silva's impromptu attempt to interpret the global financial crisis in explicitly racial terms. According to Lula, "this was a crisis that was fostered and boosted by irrational behaviour of people that are white, blue-eyed..."

Even among white people (and even bankers!) blue eyes are comparatively rare; but leaving that aside, it can just as easily be argued that the crisis was largely precipitated within the U.S. by those disproportionately minority and poor homebuyers who, in taking advantage of civil- rights stipulations that they receive the same credit as anyone else, found themselves vastly overextended in mortgage debt at the time of the collapse of the housing bubble. If it is offensive to note that many of these people were non- white and had non- blue eyes, why is it any different to focus on the physical characteristics of the bankers as a clue to their behaviour? But Lula's remarks serve as another reminder of how strongly racial theories -- ones that are usually hostile to people of European descent-- continue to taint the political discourse of South American countries. Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, I'm looking at you...

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