Was Mohandas Gandhi A Racist?
A meme appeared on facebook, “GHANDI’S 7 DANGERS TO HUMAN VIRTUE.” Below the misspelled name were seven concepts, written in all caps. This got PG thinking.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (M.K. Gandhi) “was born was born on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar, a small town on the western coast of India.” At some point the title Mahatma was applied, and is often used as though it was his name. Exact transliterations between languages using different alphabets is tricky. What is the “correct” spelling of this man’s last name? Most sources today use Gandhi.
Another term, Gandhiji, turns up in the research. “‘Ji’ in Hindi or Urdu is a suffix used after the names of respectable persons and elders like father and mother. It is used every day by millions of Indians to address their elders.Hence Gandhiji is but Mahatma Gandhi,father of our nation,addressed reverently and respectfully. We call mother mataji. Mata means mother.”
The quote in the meme is real. It is found on page 135 of Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Vol. 33. It was in an article found in Young India on October 22, 1925.
“SEVEN SOCIAL SIN The same fair friend wants readers of Young India to know, if they do not already, the following seven social sins: Politics without principles, Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice. Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”
The next entry in the collected works is interesting. “79. THAT ETERNAL QUESTION However much I may wish to avoid it, the Hindu-Muslim question will not avoid me. Muslim friends insist upon my intervention to solve it. The Hindu friends would have me discuss it with them and some of them say I have sown the wind and must reap the whirlwind.”
The meme had comments. Lloyd Lachow Gandhi was intensely racist. Joanne Gibson Gandhi was not intensely racist. Fighting racism was his first cause. John Janiga Gandhi racist??? John Taylor Lloyd, were you born an idiot, or did you have to work at it?
This looks like a job for Mr. Google. When you type the phrase “Is Gandhi,” suggested searches include “sill alive” and “on netflix.” This does not help if you want to know if someone is racist.
Mr. Gandhi lived in South Africa from 1893-1915. During this time he was offended at the treatment of Indian nationals, which led to a decision to fight for Indian rights. Unfortunately, these rights were not to be extended to the native South Africans.
… there’s no doubting that Gandhi had little time for black people. During his 21 years in South Africa, he repeatedly expressed contempt for the native population, claiming they were no better than the “untouchables” of Indian society. One speech in particular stands out. In 1896, he was quoted as referring to black South Africans as the “raw kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” For those of you who aren’t up on your South African slang, “kaffir” is a direct equivalent of our N-word. Another time, he complained about finding himself in a “kaffir” prison, claiming Indians were “above” natives, who “are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.”
There is the story of the Durban Post Office. “The first major accomplishment of the Natal Indian Congress was to further entrench racial segregation into South African society during a time of massive racial strife. At the time, the Durban, South Africa post office had two doors. One was for whites and the other for Indians and black natives. Gandhi was so disgusted at having to share a door with blacks that he initiated a campaign for the creation of a third door. … A year later, after the issue had already been resolved, Gandhi chose to expound upon his reasons for raising it in the first place. In his August 14, 1896 letter, “The Grievances of the British Indians in South Africa: An Appeal to the Indian Public,” he called being “put on the same level with the native” a “disability.”
Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.