After a petition called Gandhi ‘racist,’ his statue was removed from the University of Ghana

Source: The Washington Post

The Original

After a petition called Gandhi ‘racist,’ his statue was removed from the University of Ghana

In this September 2016 photo, a statue of Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi stands at the University of Ghana in Accra (Christian Thompson/AP)

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
December 15

Another marker has been felled in the intense argument over whether historical figures with racist histories should be honored. The University of Ghana in Accra no longer has a statue of Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi.

To much of the world, Gandhi is remembered for his peaceful protests in his efforts for Indian sovereignty, but in Africa, where Gandhi worked as a lawyer for two decades, he is seen through a different lens. And in 2016, the Ghana statue was dedicated by then-Indian President Pranab Mukherjee as a symbol of strengthening ties between the two nations.

But professors, students and Ghanaians railed against the statue, calling it an homage to a racist who thought of Africans as naked savages who were beneath both Britons and Indians, using Gandhi’s early writings from his two decades in Africa to bolster their arguments.

Gandhi’s Indian empowerment argument, critics said in a petition to remove the statue, appeared to be that the British colonial government treated Indians a “little better, if at all, than the savages or the Natives of Africa.” He spoke of the “half-heathen Native” and said that treating Indians like Africans would “degrade us.” The sole occupation of “raw” natives is hunting, he said and their “sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”

He also made liberal use of the word “Kaffir,” a racial slur so offensive that it is rarely spoken aloud in polite company or written in print. Simply uttering it in South Africa, where Gandhi lived and worked from 1893 to 1915, can be viewed as a hate crime.

BBC reported that faculty members and students said the statue had been removed Wednesday.

The Ghana University petition cited other protests against — and removal of — tributes to historical but controversial figures at universities around the globe, including the former slave-owning Royall family at Harvard University and apartheid founder Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town.

The protests against Gandhi are not limited to Africa: In Davis, Calif., a similar statue has been protested, and plans to honor Gandhi with a statue in London have also met opposition.

Gandhi’s later writings do not include the inflammatory speech of his time in Africa — although scholars have opined that Gandhi indulged in some “tidying up” of his own history. And his leadership and peaceful protests led to India’s eventual independence. But the Gandhi statue has raised an uncomfortable question: At what point does a person’s transgression’s overshadow the good he or she has ushered into the world?

[What did Mahatma Gandhi think of black people?]

Critics argue that Gandhi’s thoughts about Africans should not be whitewashed by history — that no one’s flaws should be immune from historical scrutiny. Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas, — then killed and enslaved the people who already lived there. Many of America’s Founding Fathers owned slaves. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cheated on his wife.

But King also journeyed to India to study Gandhi’s teachings. He called Gandhi “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.” And even Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary who led South Africa to end apartheid, saw Gandhi’s doctrine as inspiring.

But some history is indelible, and for members of the University of Ghana council who started the petition in 2016 and the more than 2,200 people who signed it, a statue honoring Gandhi had no place on campus.

“We consider this to be a slap in the face that undermines our struggles for autonomy, recognition and respect,” the petition says.

“It is better to stand up for our dignity than to kowtow to the wishes of a burgeoning Eurasian superpower,” the petition continues. “We have failed the generation that look up to us, namely our students. How will the historian teach and explain that Gandhi was uncharitable in his attitude toward the Black race and see that we’re glorifying him by erecting a statue on our campus?”

My Translation


摄于2016年12月,在位于阿克拉(Accra)的加纳大学(the University of Ghana)中的印度独立领袖圣雄甘地(Mohandas K. Gandhi)雕像。(Christian Thompson/AP)

作者 Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

在关于具有种族主义历史的历史人物是否应该被尊重的激烈争论中,另一个标记物被打破。位于阿克拉的加纳大学不再有印度独立领袖Mohandas K. Gandhi的雕像。

对于全世界大部分人而言,甘地(Gandhi)是因为他在为了印度主权(sovereignty)所做的努力中的和平抗议而被记住,但在非洲,那个甘地作为一个律师工作了20年的地方,他被以一个不同的角度所看待。2016年,甘地的雕像被当时的印度总统(then-Indian President)Pranab Mukherjee作为增强两国之间关系(ties)的一个象征。


批评者们在一份关于移除雕像的请愿书中表示甘地的印度赋权(empowerment)论点似乎是英国殖民政府对待印度人“稍微好一点,如果对比所有的野蛮人或非洲土著的话”。他谈到了“半异教土著(half-heathen Native)”一词,并表示如果对待印度人像对待非洲人一样的话会“降低我们的等级”。他说“原始”土著的唯一职业是狩猎,他们的“唯一抱负是收集一定数量的牛去买一个老婆,然后在懒散和赤裸中度过一生”。

他还随意使用(made liberal use of)“Kaffir”一词。“Kaffir”是一个具有种族歧视色彩(racial slur)的,非常无礼的词语。它很少在有礼貌的场合(polite company)被大声说出,或者被写在印刷物上。在南非,那个甘地曾经在1893年至1915年期间生活和工作的地方,仅仅是说出这个词就可以被看作一种仇恨犯罪。


加纳大学请愿书引用了其他抗议活动作为例子。那些抗议活动反对并移除了在世界各地大学中对于有争议历史人物的致敬(tributes)。那些历史人物包括在哈佛大学(Harvard University)的前奴隶主(slave-owning)Royall家族和在开普敦大学(the University of Cape Town)种族隔离政策(apartheid)的创始人Cecil Rhodes。

虽然学者们认为(opined)甘地沉溺于他的一些对于自己历史的“整理(tidying up)”当中,但是甘地的后期著作中没有包括他在非洲时期的煽动性演讲。而且他的领导以及和平抗议导致了印度主权独立。但是甘地雕像被上升到一个令人不舒服的问题:在什么时候(At what point)一个人的罪过(transgression)会让他/她给世界带来(ushered)的美好蒙上阴影?


批评者们表示甘地关于非洲人的看法不应该被历史洗白——没有一个人的缺点应该免于历史的审视(scrutiny)。克里斯托弗•哥伦布(Christopher Columbus)“发现了”美洲,然后杀害并奴役(enslaved)了生活在那里的人。许多美国的开国元勋(Founding Fathers)都拥有奴隶。牧师马丁•路德•金(The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.)欺骗了他的妻子。

但是金也前往了印度去研究甘地的教义(teachings)。他称甘地为“非暴力社会变革技术的指路明灯”。甚至连领导南非终结种族隔离制度的革命者(revolutionary)纳尔逊•曼德拉(Nelson Mandela)也认为甘地的教义(doctrine)鼓舞人心。



“维护我们的尊严,好过对一个迅速崛起(burgeoning)的欧亚超级大国(Eurasian superpower)的意愿卑躬屈膝(kowtow)”。请愿书还称“我们辜负了(failed)尊敬我们的一代人,也就是我们的学生。历史学家该如何教导和解释甘地对黑人的态度是不仁慈的,以及我们通过在我们的校园里建立一座雕像去赞美他?”


English Chinese
racist 种族主义
fell 打破
To much of the world 对于全世界大部分人而言
efforts 努力
through a different lens 以一个不同的角度
rail against 责骂
homage 致敬
savages 野蛮人
bolster 支撑
critic 批评者
petition 请愿书
colonial 殖民的
indolence 懒散
polite company 有礼貌的场合
faculty members 大学教职工
indulge in 沉溺于
inflammatory 煽动性
immune 免于
indelible 不可磨灭的
autonomy 自治
recognition 承认
a slap in the face 一记耳光
stand up 维护
dignity 尊严
look up 尊敬
uncharitable 不仁慈的
erecting 建立
glorifying 赞美