Gandhi and Blacks

The Durban Post Office
One of Gandhi's major "achievements" in South Africa was to promote racial segregation by refusing to share a post office door with the black natives.

Sergeant Major Gandhi
Learn how Gandhi became a Sgt. Major in the British Army and eagerly participated in the 1906 British war against the black Zulus.

Gandhi and South African Blacks
Gandhi wrote extensively about his experiences with the blacks of South Africa. He always termed them "Kaffirs" and his writings reveal a deep-seated disdain for these African natives.

Introduction

Gandhi is idolized by people of all political stripes around the world, and his life is popularly considered a model for the American Civil Rights Movement.

U.S. Senator Harry Reid called Gandhi “a giant in morality.” Former U.S president Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a “National Day of Recognition for Mohandas K. Gandhi.” South African leader Nelson Mandela called Gandhi “the archetypal anticolonial revolutionary” whose “nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements.” African-American Senator Obama reportedly keeps a picture of Gandhi in his office.

Martin Luther King, Jr. associated Gandhi with the African-American struggle against inequality, segregation, and racism. Reverend King believed Gandhi was “inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward...peace and harmony.” When the Indian government paid to place a statue of Gandhi at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta, Mrs. King spoke about her husband's admiration for Gandhi, saying, “It is gratifying and appropriate that this statue is installed in this historic site.”

Unfortunately, these people were never acquainted with the real, historical Mohandas Gandhi, who was a virulent racist.

Gandhi was hired to work as an attorney for wealthy Indian traders in South Africa. He moved there in 1893 and soon helped establish the Natal Indian Congress. The goal of this Congress was to “promote concord and harmony among the Indians and Europeans residing in the colony [of South Africa].” Instead of concord and harmony with the blacks, however, Gandhi promoted racial segregation. The major achievement of the Congress was the successful attempt, spear-headed by Gandhi, to fix the Durban post office “problem.” This issue is discussed in-depth here.

In 1904, Gandhi founded The Indian Opinion, a newspaper which he used as a political tool to promote his personal views. It is in this paper, which Gandhi edited until 1914, that we find a record of his extensive anti-black activism and opinions. A list of anti-black quotes from his writings, in which he invariably refers to the South African natives as “Kaffirs,” can be found here. Gandhi's opinion of the native is best summarized when he calls them people “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.”

Finally, in 1906, Gandhi cheered on the British as they waged a war on the black Zulus. He then volunteered for military service himself, attaining the rank of Sgt. Major in the British Army and assisting the war on blacks in every way he could. You can learn more about this here.

One of the best-known heroes of the American Civil Rights Movement was Rosa Parks, the black lady who refused to sit at the back of the bus. While Gandhi is upheld as a champion of equality, the truth is that he probably would not even have allowed Mrs. Parks on the bus in the first place. He proudly said that among South African Indians, the “co-mingling of the coloured and white races...is practically unknown.” Gandhi also boasted, “If there is one thing, which the Indian cherishes, more than any other, it is the purity of type.”

People remember Rev. King for his most famous speech, in which he said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” To associate Martin Luther King, Jr. with Mohandas Gandhi, whose dream was to clear the way for Apartheid in South Africa, is an insult to the memory of Rev. King.