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Was Gandhi A Racist?

By Sharelle Burt

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A statue paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi has been removed from the Accra campus of the University of Ghana.

After it was installed in 2016, lecturers and professors started a petition to have the statue removed, claiming that the late Indian leader was “racist” and respect should be paid to African leaders first. First placed in the university’s recreational quadrangle, reports say that the statue will be relocated. “Having his statue means that we stand for everything he stands for and if he stands for these things his alleged racism, I don’t think we should have his statue on campus.” law student Nana Adoma Asare Adei said.

Gandhi is one of the most prolific figures of the 20th century. Best known for leading non-violent protests throughout India, Gandhi spent a lot of time living and working in South Africa, inspiring many.

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But was Gandhi a racist? Some of his comments on black Africans are concerning, calling black South Africans “kaffirs,” an offensive racial slur. He also stated that Indians were “infinitely superior” to black people. The book, ‘In The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire,’ South African academics Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed explored the fact that Gandhi kept struggles of Indians “separate from the struggles that Africans and coloreds experienced. Ironic, since Indian people were denied political rights based on the color of their skin.

Gandhi’s grandson and biographer Rajmohan Gandhi, says that in his younger days, Gandhi was extremely “at times ignorant and prejudiced about South Africa’s blacks.” Another Gandhi writer, Ramachandra Guha, says that “to speak of comprehensive equality for colored people was premature in early 20th Century South Africa.” Desai and Vahed disagree. “Gandhi believed in the Aryan Brotherhood. This involved whites and Indians higher up than Africans on the civilized scale.,” Desai said. “To that extent, he was a racist. To the extent that he wrote Africans out of history or was keen to join with whites in their subjugation he was a racist.”

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