Keep Gandhi’s Statue at the Peace Garden on the Fresno State University campus
Keep Gandhi’s Statue at the Peace Garden on the Fresno State University campus
I am a student here at Fresno State University. I have family members and close friends that have gone through UHS and CSU-Fresno over the years. Central Valley has been and will be home to me for years to come.
A lot of attention has been brought to people in history and the statues/monuments that have been erected praising them. The statues that are being taken down symbolize slavery, racism, and violence.
To put Gandhi’s statue in the same category would be to affront the legacy of a man who dedicated his whole life to fight against colonialism, racism, and violence. He was an Indian man who was pushed off the train in South Africa because he was “colored,” was beaten on numerous occasions, and was sent to jail many times for his fight against racism and oppression.
Even though he started as a normal young man, he transformed himself into a person who has been respected by people and peace movements from all over the world. Not only did Gandhi rid himself of his own racism of the days when he was a young lawyer, he dedicated his life for fighting for peace, justice, and equality. As we will see some examples of his lasting impact on movements and leaders for peace across the world.
A few days ago, a petition was started to have the Gandhi statue taken out of the Peace Garden at Fresno State.
I was very shocked and decided to do my own research. I have always been aware of Gandhi’s massive impact on the world and that he has been deeply studied by thousands of scholars throughout the world.
After extensive research I say we must not judge Gandhi by his early life comments taken out of context but look at his journey as a whole which influenced/helped South African and Indian freedom and African American struggles. If one cannot reform themselves of their early life thoughts, then there is no hope in the world.
I believe that you can come from an uneducated and horrible place, and still change yourself to fight for those who need help and be a good role model.
It is important for us and our future generations to learn about these historical figures and judge them not merely for their failures and shortcomings, but how they strove to overcome them and became champions for justice and inequality. In our own reckoning, these figures serve as important models for righting our past wrongs.
Here are the points I would like to bring to your attention.
Fresno State’s Peace Garden was established 30 years ago as a student-led initiative in support of peace and nonviolent activism. It currently has four Statues: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Cesar Chavez, Jane Addams, and Mahatma Gandhi. Each of the others named Gandhi as an inspiration for them.
· The Honorees in the Peace Garden are not the figures that should be worshipped, but their actions should be emulated to confront racism and injustices in our own time.
. Gandhi symbolizes evolution of a person, hope and truth for the humanity: humans have the potential to right the past wrongs and become champions for peace, justice, equality, and dignity for all. Select statements taken out of context from Gandhi’s writings distort what his lifelong work for equal justice and challenging the structures of inequities represents.
· Even though Gandhi never wanted statues for himself, his memorial represents a model of and dedication for fights against racism, violence, inequality, oppression, and injustice.
· It is historically and morally damaging for those who seek justice to degrade Gandhi’s legacy of fighting against discrimination on the basis of race, caste, gender, and religious orientation, on the basis of select out of context quotes.
Some truths we all shall pay attention to, not politics of hatred:
· In 1906 Gandhi assembled a team of Indians in ambulance corps during the Zulu War in South Africa to nurse the wounded Zulus who were left to die by British soldiers.
· By 1908 Gandhi already publicly supported African rights. He declared in an address to the YMCA in 1908:
“South Africa would probably be a howling wilderness without the Africans…”
· He inspired generations of leaders in South Africa in their fight against the apartheid. “While Nelson Mandela is the father of South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi is our grandfather,” said Harris Majeke, South African’s ambassador to India.
· Nelson Mandela, who was an admirer of Gandhi, wrote in an article in 1995:
“All in all, Gandhi must be forgiven those prejudices and judged in the context of the time and circumstances. We are looking here at the young Gandhi, still to become the Mahatma, when he was without any human prejudice save that in favour of truth and justice”.
· Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a renowned South African activist and leading spokesperson for freedom and justice in South Africa, wrote: We salute Mahatma Gandhi and we remember, in tribute to him that it was in South Africa that his method of non-violence and non-cooperation was first practiced in the struggle against the vicious race discrimination that still plagues that unhappy country. But now positive action with nonviolence, as advocated by us, has found expression in South Africa in the defiance of the oppressive past laws. https://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/desmond-mpilo-tutu.html
· Gandhi also inspired generations of African American leaders in their fight against racial segregation and oppression, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
· In 1936, Gandhi told Howard Thurman (a prominent African American theologian, who inspired Dr. King and other US Civil Rights leaders) that through the African American people “…the unadulterated message of non-violence will be delivered to the world.”
· Dr. King who was deeply influenced by Gandhi said that Gandhi’s philosophy was “the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”
· Gandhi’s teachings, life, and legacy has helped shape the fight against injustices in our own California Central Valley. The co-founder of United Farm Workers Movement, Dolores Huerta, emphasizes the influence on Gandhi’s philosophy on her, the movement and Caesar Chavez, saying “Caesar Chavez was a complete devotee of Gandhi.”
The Tributes to Gandhi’s relentless fight for justice and equality abound
· Dorothy Day, an American Catholic writer and activist says, “There is no public figure who has more conformed his life to the life of Jesus Christ than Gandhi.”
· Gandhi had deep friendship with Badshah Khan, a Pashtun leader who organized a nonviolent army, “Khudai Khidmatgar,” to serve the community. He is also known as the “Frontier Gandhi.”
· In 1950, Albert Einstein offered a tribute to Gandhi: “I believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men of our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil.”
· In a recent interview Dalai Lama said, “The world needs Mahatma Gandhiji’s teachings and practice of non-violence. Many problems in the world today are of our own creation.”
Nobel Prize and Gandhi
· Gandhi was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, a few days before he was murdered in January 1948. The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee; when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi”.
· Gandhi was shortlisted the third time in January 1948, just days before his assassination, which prompted the selectors to think whether the award could be given posthumously. Gandhi had dedicated his life in his struggle to secure justice for all. According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation at the time, the award could, under certain circumstances, be awarded posthumously. “Thus, it was possible to give Gandhi the prize. However, Gandhi did not belong to an organization, he left no property behind and no will; who should receive the Prize money?” the committee said according to the Nobel Foundation.
· Finally, the committee decided not to award the prize at all that year, saying that “there was no suitable living candidate.” It seems no one equaled Gandhi’s achievements in the areas of peace, justice, and equality. https://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/10/10/why-didnt-mahatma-gandhi-get-the-noble-peace-prize/
As Gandhi supported South African Freedom Movement and Civil Rights Movement in America, I am sure Gandhi would have stood for Black Lives Matter Movement also.
Please join students, educators, activists, and community members of all walks of life who stand with #Blacklivesmatter, who stand against all kinds of injustices, oppression, violence, and hatred everywhere.
I ask you to sign this petition to preserve our Peace Garden at California State University- Fresno with Gandhi in it so students and community from all backgrounds can benefit from having such a serene, peaceful place with statues of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Jane Addams.
Help love triumph over hate, nonviolence over violence, truth over untruth, and peace over war!