Late on the night of June 2, while protests against racism and police brutality arose across the United States, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi that stands in front of the Indian Embassy was defaced. In Washington, DC, as in every major American city, the vast majority of protesters remained peaceful as they confronted heavily armed officers. In their nonviolence and their willingness to risk their own safety in pursuit of justice, the protesters embodied principles often associated with Gandhi. Why then was his statue attacked?

This was not the only Gandhi memorial to be targeted in the United States or elsewhere, nor was this the first instance in which protesters objected to a likeness of the Mahatma. In December 2018, students and faculty at the University of Ghana removed a similar statue at the apex of a campaign known as Gandhi Must Fall. That name referenced an earlier struggle, Rhodes Must Fall, that focused on the legacy of the imperialist and white supremacist, Cecil Rhodes. Does Gandhi deserve to be grouped with Rhodes or other committed white supremacists? Was Gandhi racist?

Rhodes and Gandhi are linked by their connection to Southern Africa. When Gandhi arrived in Durban, Natal, in 1893, the Union of South Africa...

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