By Frederick H. Lowe
A statue of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who is called the Father of India because his peaceful protests ended the country’s 190-year British rule, has been removed from the campus of the University of Ghana in the capital city of Accra.
Many people, even some who admired his strategy, considered Gandhi a racist because of his treatment and description of black African men and women.
The British Broadcasting Company and several other British news outlets reported that the University of Ghana professors launched a petition drive to remove Gandhi’s statue, which was dedicated in 2016 as a symbol of the growing relationship between India and Ghana. The statue was duly removed in 2018 as a result of the petition drive.
The university’s professors and students want instead to erect a statue of Colin Kaepernick, the former National Football League quarterback, who quietly took a knee during the National Anthem at pro-football games to protest police murdering unarmed black men and women. His protests sparked further protests in the U.S. and sparked heated debates about what acts could be considered patriotic.
They also would support a statue dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement. The Gandhi statue has been moved to an undisclosed location in Ghana.
The professors noted that Gandhi, who lived in South Africa and worked as a lawyer for two decades, was a racist who frequently called blacks Kaffirs, an offensive racial slur, and referred to black Africans as naked savages who were inferior to the British and to Indians. Ironically, the British often called Indians “niggers.”
In the 1982 movie “Gandhi,” starring Ben Kingsley, Gandhi’s hatred of blacks is never mentioned, and black Africans never appear in the film, not even as background characters although parts of the film take place in Africa.
Indeed, Gandhi had a complicated relationship with some black Africans. Nelson Mandela said Gandhi’s teachings on non-violence helped topple apartheid in South Africa.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia also was a Gandhi admirer. Both men embraced Gandhi’s ideas but it is not clear if they had ever met him.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King visited India in 1959 to study Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence, which played a role in launching the civil rights movement here.
Gandhi died on January 30, 1948, at the age of 78.
Gandhi’s attitude towards blacks has been passed down to younger generations. British newspapers frequently publish articles reporting how rudely Indians treat black Africans studying in the country.
In Boston, Annie Dookhan, a former chemist for the Massachusetts Crime Lab, admitted falsifying drug evidence of mostly black people affecting up to 34,000 cases.
Even here in Chicago, I have encountered hostility from Indians. I was walking down Devon Avenue near where I live, and an Indian woman, wearing a blue sari, saw me approaching. She moved quickly to the curb and gripped a metal sign pole with both hands and rapidly swung her feet around to kick at me. She missed. I kept walking. The incident was bewildering until I began reading British papers and was enlightened by their stories of Indian hostility toward blacks.
Another incident occurred when I walked into Chicago’s Northwestern Hospital for a scheduled doctor’s appointment. As I walked through the hallway, I passed an Indian doctor. She quickly clutched her purse. I shouted, “I’m not here to steal your purse!” She gave me a mean look and ran in the opposite direction to Lurie Children’s Hospital.