Published: Tuesday | May 21, 2013 Winston Donald, Guest Columnist
A lecturer at postgrad in the humanities once asked if I was sure that Cubans practised racial discrimination against its black populace. I had to stand up for myself in the class and tell him to read the literature, or to acquaint himself with scholarship on Cuba and resistance. But, it was not odd, despite his sports and humanities background, because many of us are ignorant of the wider happenings in our hemisphere and beyond.
It is with this regard that I must speak on the issue of Mahatma Gandhi. Often, we accuse Europe and white people of racism against people of Africa and African descent. Gandhi was no exception.
Positioning Mahatma Gandhi’s bust at the esteemed Tom Redcam library and the statue at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies is an insult to our people. Gandhi is today acknowledged as a covert racist. His objectives and aims were to get the best deal as colonised people from the British in South Africa at the expense of black Africans.
The literature on his life attests to the decrying and belittling of Africans who he disgustingly referred to as ‘Kaffirs’, a derogatory word. There is no sainthood in this Indian icon; rather, he was anti-black. Jamaica must be educated and learn sufficiently before we take gifts from “wisemen from the east”.
An article by Rory Carol, in the Guardian newspaper of Johannesburg, stated that to [him], Africans were no better than the ‘Untouchables’ of India. Gandhi was quoted at a meeting in Bombay in 1896 saying that Europeans sought to degrade Indians to the level of 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”.
All of Gandhi’s writings and actions while in Africa were biased against the black Africans. United States army colonel G.B. Singh is the author ofGandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity, which challenged the myth of so-called saintly and non-violent Indian leader. Singh’s book sought to shred Gandhi’s image based on factual information on his prejudices, which even Gandhi’s grandson acknowledged, although playing down Gandhi as one who lived in a “different world”.
SYMBOLS OF PREJUDICE
Sadly, Gandhi failed to acknowledge that thousands of black Africans lived in India long before Europeans came there and also since the arrival of the Portuguese, especially in South India. As a man of intellectual prowess and a lawyer, he must have known or heard of people of African descent living in Gujarat and other areas of west and south India. Undisputedly, they were brought to India mostly as slaves.
It is time to remove the statue and bust – symbols of prejudice – and return them to the Indian High Commission. In nearly every comment and article in the press regarding Gandhi, the Indian High Commission has refused to comment. Why the secrecy? Why the hush-hush?
There are statues of many icons around the world which we can place in our public spaces. We do not need to be reminded of another racist who made it look like Europe was the only continent at fault.