Great Soul by Joseph Lelyveld – Chapter 3; Before he Became Mahatma, Gandhi was a Racist Swine

Would the revelation that Mohandas Gandhi, hailed as the Mahatma (Great Soul) and Father of the Nation, was once given to engaging in racist behavior and trash talking of South African Blacks dismay Indians?

No, Indians wouldn’t care save the perfunctory protests (some Indian pigs may even be happy considering how they still look down upon Blacks).

You see, these hypocritical Indians (that is the majority of India’s population) make a pretense, nay a fetish, of worshiping Gandhi.

But every moment of their lives, they act in ways completely contrary to the Mahatma’s teachings.

Gandhi, as even you schmucks know by now, lived in South Africa for two decades.

Enough time, we can all agree for a look at how he behaved vis-a-vis the majority population in the country. No, we’re not referring to the Indian traders or indentured workers, or God Forbid the Whites.

The majority population then, as now, in South Africa were the Blacks.

As Chapter 3 of Joseph Lelyveld’s book Great Soul makes it clear, Gandhi was a racist repeatedly using the term Kaffir to refer to South African Blacks (p.53-54).

Kaffir has a strongly negative connotation and means inferior, backward, uncivilized or primitive.

Using the term Kaffir to refer to South African blacks in their homeland in the late 19th and early 20th century is like calling Blacks in present-day America Nigger. Both are disgustingly but potently insulting.

But still that did not stop Gandhi from using it to describe the Blacks. Gandhi must surely have known the meaning because he used that word even after staying in South Africa for 14 years.

Here’s Gandhi in his own words in 1908:

That’s not the only time Gandhi spoke harshly of South African Blacks. As early as 1894, Gandhi was complaining about them:

Fast forward two years and we see harsher language:

In 1904, 10 years after Gandhi arrived in South Africa, we hear him asking the Johannesburg medical officer during the plague outbreak why the Indian area was:

Not convinced yet that Gandhi was a racist? Wait, there’re more examples:

On the subject of race, here’s what Gandhi had to say:

And a few months earlier:

If you go by the documentary evidence, despite a two-decade presence in South Africa, Gandhi does not seem to have had much contact with the Blacks or Kaffirs as he derisively referred to them.

According to Lelyveld, in the large volume of Gandhi’s writings in South Africa there are very few references to Blacks. Remember, Gandhi had several White Christian friends in South Africa, some of whom even joined him in his settlements like Tolstoy Farm.

Gandhi’s Betrayal
But the worst example of Gandhi’s treatment of South African Blacks was his reaction to the Zulu resistance (also called the Bhambatha Rebellion) in 1906.

As the South African blacks were being butchered, their homes burned and their men chased into the hills by the White brutes, Gandhi offered his support to the British colonists (Whites) in their fight against the Zulu rebels:

With a small band of Indians and proudly donning the title of Sergeant Major and wearing a military uniform (see photo p.68) Gandhi left Durban to join the Whites as they mercilessly put down the rebellion by shooting and whipping the Blacks into submission.

Maybe, it was regret over participation in the brutal actions of the Whites that led to Gandhi to swear off sex and nonviolent resistance to the Transvaal “Black Act.”

Still, Gandhi kept referring to the Blacks as Kaffirs.

Was Gandhi following other Indians in his shabby treatment of South African Blacks, the original inhabitants unlike the British, Dutch or Indian settlers who came to the land much later?

No surprise then that the founder of African National Congress John Dube was strongly anti-Indian. As Dube rightly lamented:

Even long after Gandhi returned to India, he seemed unwilling to support South African Indians joining hands with the Blacks there. This is what Gandhi said in 1939:

Chapter 3 (among Zulus) of Lelyvel’d book on Gandhi is a particularly interesting one, shining as it does a sharp light on the Mahatma’s racist attitude toward South African Blacks.

Even Mahatmas have feet of clay, or so it would seem to readers of Lelyveld’s book.