Racism has been an ancient issue that has been troubling the world for centuries, and many people believe that the Black race has been the pre-eminent receiver of unfair treatment. Even though there might be truth in these assertions, it does not mean that Africans are the only ones who have suffered racial abuse.
The Indians have their own share of the story, as well as some parts of the Asian continent – likewise the Jews, who received the major part of brutality during the Second World War as a result of prejudice they received from the Germans led by Adolf Hitler.
Also, among Europeans there are some sorts of ‘racial abuse’. Some see themselves as ‘more European’ than others. Maybe the semantic meaning of the word racism has a connotative meaning with reference to white supremacy, but in actual term there is racism in all parts of the world. Narrowing the scope, one is right to say that racism has got to do with colour; but when one wants to go deeper into it, racism extends beyond being Black or white. Are we not in one way or another racist in our own way?
Africa is endowed with a lot of people with different rich cultures which make them unique, and it is obvious that most African countries’ citizens are dark in complexion; notwithstanding, there are some exceptions to this, as some folks in North, East and South African countries have slightly fair colours.
However, most times when west African teams like Accra Hearts of Oak, Kumasi Asante Kotoko from Ghana, Eyinba FC of Nigeria and the rest face their opponents from North Africa, the players from West Africa normally complain of racial abuse from their opponent. Aside from this, ethnicity is one form of racism that is commonly found in Africa. Some ethnic groups feel superior to others, and as such would always want to show their superiority.
A typical example is when some parents in Ghana will not sanction the marriage of their wards with some ethnic groups. Most Akans do not want their children to marry Ewe people and vice versa, but there has been some improvement in recent times. The situation is no different in Nigeria, as most Igbo parents will not permit their wards to marry from Yoruba land, and same from Hausa land and vice versa; but, again, the situation has improved lately.
People from the Southern part of Ghana feel they are superior to those from the North. The list is enormous and can continue without ending. The truth of the matter is that everyone has got a little bit of racial attitude in him or her, and as such racism is not exclusive to white people.
‘Are We All Not Racist’ is born out of a debate that has gone on at the University of Ghana, Ghana’s premier university, in the last four years about a statue that was erected on the campus. In June 2016, the then-Indian President, His Excellency Pranab Mukherjee, visited the University of Ghana and presented a statue of a Former Indian president and the one who led them from British imperial rule in 1947 – Mohandas Karachand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi.
After the presentation, the then-outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof Ernest Ayitey, erected the statue behind the Balme Library. This brought some controversies on campus. A campaign was launched and dubbed ‘Gandhi Must Fall’, as a link went out requesting the signatures of about 2,000 people – and within 48 hours they got the required number and the petition was then forwarded to the University Council for consideration.
Prof. Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Head of the African Studies Department at the University of Ghana, and others were the lead petitioners of this petition. A lot of questions came to mind the moment I heard of the call for removal of the statue. Were we not aware that Gandhi was a racist in the first place? Why did we receive a gift of a person who is being regarded as racist? Were we forced as a university to put the statue on campus? What really went wrong? Was the statue ‘Nicodemously’ given to the university? Was the Vice-Chancellor and University Council then not aware that Mahatma Gandhi was a racist?
We are not doing ourselves any good as a country because we have a lot of people who have contributed immensely to the development of this country and to success of the University of Ghana. The likes of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Dr. J.B. Danquah – to mention but a few, have also helped this country to reach where it is now, but we do not have a single monument for them. Where did we go wrong as a country?
Can’t we honour our heroes and heroines? A lot of people were furious when President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, made some suggestion that it would not be wrong if we named the University of Ghana after Dr. J.B. Danquah – considering the kind of work he did in parliament to make sure that Ghana got its share of the universities in West Africa. Meanwhile, we accepted the statue of a foreigner on our campus who had not contributed to development of the university. Are we our own enemies?
Many people believe and it is on record that Mahatma Gandhi made some form of derogatory comments concerning the Black race, and they have also forgot that he himself was fighting against racism. It is also on record that these comments were made in South Africa. Anyway, Gandhi was fighting for his people as Marcus Garvey, W.E. Dubois, Malcom X, Kwame Nkrumah and rest of the Black race were fighting for the liberation of Black people. His cause was to see to it that his people (the Indians) were not oppressed. People have forgotten that Malcom X’s quest to fight for the Black race also used a lot of unprintable words against the whites.
The likes of Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey and most African leaders got inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi’s style of leadership. They admired his approach by which the people of India achieved their independence. Gandhi’s approach was not using violent means in getting their grievances resolved, but adopted what is generally known as ‘Civil Disobedience’ to get the attention of the British who were racially and otherwise abusing Indians.
How can someone who is racist inspire the likes of Kwame Nkrumah and the rest? If we say Gandhi is racist, are we in any way assuming that God is also a racist? According to the scriptures, the people of Israel were considered as a favoured people. Why would God like some people more than others? In those days, were people not commanded by God to go to other places and destroy them? I am not in any way justifying comments that have got to do with racial abuse, and neither am I justifying the derogatory statements of Mahatma Gandhi – but we should not be in a haste to mate out judgement on him, because everyone has got some trait of racism.
Fortunately, on the 12th December 2018, the university removed the statue from its campus and handed it over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration. We must congratulate the people who initiated this call. As a country, we need to appreciate the little things that our ancestors have done for us by rewarding and remembering them with some monuments which will always keep their memories alive. Let’s say “No” to racism. Let us appreciate and accept everyone irrespective of their colour, geographical location and move on as one people – as Lucky Dube put it, “different colours but one people”. We are all children of God, and as such love and peace must exist among us. Ghana must work again. Ghana will Work again.
YOUNG POSITIVIST, a concerned citizen of Ghana
The Writer is Boamah Sampson, a final year student at the University of Ghana, studying English and Political Science. (0548690091/ firstname.lastname@example.org).