Africans are at a stage of enlightenment. Never before has there been such a wave of pan-Africanism expressed right in the face of the oppressor or in this case, the oppressor’s statues. These are artifacts of past suppression of Africans and there is something inherently wrong about celebrating racists and bigots in African institutions of higher learning. Where are the African heroes? Are the compounds so full of the Kwame Nkrumahs, Mandelas and Nyereres that universities now feel they want to erect sculptures of proponents of white superiority. Africa should awaken to the reality of its past and dismantle these racist statues. Mahatma Gandhi is the latest addition of pro-African inferiority figures to be embroiled in the waves of change, this time in Ghana.
On 14 June 2016 a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was erected at the Recreational Quadrangle in Ghana’s University of Ghana. An online petition with just over 1,400 signatures at time of publication drafted by teaching staff at the university says this is the only statue of a historical personality on the campus. This means Kwame Nkrumah, a godfather of pan-Africanism has no statue on this campus yet Gandhi, for some unknown reason made it there. As the petition rightfully reads, “Why should we uplift other people's 'heroes' at an African university when we haven’t lifted up our own? We consider this to be a slap in the face that undermines our struggles for autonomy, recognition and respect.”
African education is pointless if it teaches Africans to respect other people’s heroes.
Gandhi’s Racist History
Mahatma Gandhi has a stained history. While some may call for leniency when dealing with him because of his great work he did for Indian independence, that says nothing about his view of black Africans who he viewed as lazy and lower than Indians on some hierarchy of races he made up in his mind. The petition quotes a few of his statements about blacks when he said, “A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.” Another unflattering quote is, “Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us 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.”
His fight was not for equality for all, it was for the appreciation of the value of the Indian, whatever became of the African was none of his business because to him, Africans were lower than Indians. In fact, he expressly exposed this position on June 1, 1906 when he said, “The Boer Government insulted the Indians by classing them with the Kaffirs.” Atlanta Black Star has a collection of even more of his racist comments all with a running theme of a superior Indian people and an inferior, lazy and savage African people. Why is he receiving the ultimate glory of being praised in the backyard of the people he insulted? No one should ever reward bigotry, especially the victims.
It is sad when the study and teaching of African heroes is left for the West. More and more Africans do not know the contributions of their heroes but instead know about the Gandhis who are praised by history, a sickening case of convenient amnesia. In South Africa, Rhodes University’s name will change and the statue of Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town fell in 2015. In Zimbabwe, this same Cecil Rhodes is buried at a traditional sacred site in Matopos. This superimposition of colonialists and bigots over everything African is pathetic and should be stopped. More young Africans should be “woke” as some have called the enlightenment. More young Africans should be pan-African. More young Africans should dismantle the legacies of racial prejudice and racial inequalities inherent in the erection of the racists’ statues. Victims should never celebrate their victimisers. It is a simple principle all Africans should understand. In addition, African heroes should be celebrated first before going across seas and oceans to find from the history of other people what their heroes did so Africa can celebrate them. Local heroes for local people!
Image Credit: AP