Gandhi Was A Racist
Since moving to Denver 10 years ago, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who adore Mahatma Gandhi. He’s a hero in nearby Boulder.
I personally was never a huge fan, because during the Holocaust Gandhi said that the Jews shouldn’t fight back and instead just accept their deaths. Enlightenment, according to Gandhi, never supports any form of violence even if it’s to fend off genocide and the gassing of six million Jews.
The ethics of Judaism require self-defense when attacked, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time.
People worldwide grew up learning about Gandhi as the epitome of peace and nonviolence. The poster child for love if you will. It’s what we’ve been taught without contradiction. But Gandhi’s years living in South Africa, where he fought for the rights of Indians under apartheid, tells a more complete story. Since we’re all on the topic of truthful history these days.
As part of his advocacy for Indians, in 1893 Gandhi wrote to the white supremacist Parliament of South Africa and stated that a “general belief seems to prevail in the colony that the Indians are a little better, if at all, than savages or the natives of Africa.”
In 1904, he similarly wrote to a health officer in Johannesburg that the council “must withdraw Kaffirs” from a slum called the “Coolie Location” where a large number of Africans lived alongside Indians: “About the mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians, I must confess I feel most strongly.” Kaffir, in case you were wondering, was a derogatory term for Black Africans in the country. Their N-word. Gandhi didn’t want Indians to have to live by them.
Gandhi fought tirelessly for the rights of his Indian brethren in South Africa but wasn’t willing to do the same for Black Africans also abused by apartheid. He wasn’t going to stick his neck out for Black people. His racism and conscious decision to leave Black people out of his efforts is detailed in a book by South African historians Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed.
A statue of Gandhi was removed in Ghana because of his racist views about Africans. A move towards acknowledging Gandhi’s racism.