Should Gandhi Have a Place on Our Walls?



You may notice Gandhi quotes in classrooms or hallways of Pentucket, but do you really know who he was?

In Gandhi’s lifetime, he carried out peaceful protests that changed the world and led India’s independence movement. He is most widely known for the nonviolent protesting doctrine he preached and practiced to accomplish social and political progress. He used this tactic to fight against child marriage and worked towards raising lower caste people out of poverty.

While he spent most of his life fighting for the freedom of his people, he also strongly believed in the superiority of Indian people over other races, specifically black people. He is also known to have had extremely sexist, warped views of how women should be treated in society and to have taken horrible actions to see those expectations carried out.

At the beginning of the school year Gandhi’s quote, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” was posted in big letters in one of the front entrance display cases.

Ms. Costello, Pentucket librarian, was the person who put this quote up. In reference to her intentions behind the instillation Ms. Costello said, “people are complainers you know what I mean? And they’re like I wish this could happen I wish that could happen…I think that a lot of people are hypocrites and they can complain about one thing and yet they’re doing the exact same thing.” She wanted to put the quote up to inspire students and faculty to make positive changes in our school as to create a better environment for everyone.

Gandhi was a practicing lawyer, but he would only work for Indians. He thought that  black South Africans were “uncivilised”, “troublesome”, and “very dirty.” He was often outraged by Indians and being classified together black South Africans. He also compared black people to animals and would refer to South Africans as “K*ffirs,”an extremely racist slur.

These racist views that black people are less than other groups is still embedded in India today. An example of this is how popular the use of skin bleaching creams is. These creams are advertised all over India, one going by the name of “Fair & Lovely”. BBC once reported that in South Asia more skin lightening creams are sold than bottles of Coca Cola.

Gandhi once personally cut two females’ hair off in order to reprimand a young male that was harassing them. He did this to make them less desirable to men so they would no longer be harassed or assaulted. Gandhi was quite proud of his solution and often bragged about the incident in his writings. It was his belief that women were responsible for the sexual harassment and assault they received because it was the way they looked and acted that provoked the behavior from men.

His views have been perpetuated into modern India as exemplified by a decision made in 2016 by St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India. According to the New York Post, the institute added ripped jeans to its list of banned clothing for female students, which already included wearing shorts, sleeveless tops and short dresses. The dress codes rule were imposed due to instances of fatal rape cases involving college students.

Another instance of Gandhi’s warped view of men having power over women is when his wife, Kasturba Gandhi, got pneumonia and he wouldn’t allow her to take penicillin, which would have cured her. She died from this sickness in 1944. Later in Gandhi’s life, he contracted malaria and was quick to take the medicine that cured him.

After discussing some of the examples of Gandhi’s lesser known beliefs, Ms. Costello spoke to if we should be posting his quotes in school. “Do we throw out an icon because there were negatives or do we look at that icon for the contribution that they did give knowing that they were a human being with flaws and you know those kinds of things.”

Gandhi’s views have continued into modern times,which has perpetuated issues like rape culture and racism, we have to ask ourselves if we really want someone like that to be quoted on Pentucket’s walls. It is especially questionable to promote such a person in a high school setting, where social issues like those are always on people’s minds. The question you have to ask yourself is where do you draw the line? It can be dangerous to edit a person’s life views down to a few sentences and ignore all of the problematic actions in their lives. It is important to be aware and educated about the person behind the words before you post their quotes on your wall.