When I was a young child, I wrote myself into many books by assuming that the main character was white and female, even if I was told otherwise. If privilege dictated my view of the race and gender of a main character, wouldn’t I assume that the main character is white and male? While I cannot conclude that all children make themselves the main character (perhaps I was just a particularly self-centered child), this line of thought lead me to wonder, what race do young children assume an ambiguous race, fictional character to be?
I could not find any research on this question, but did stumble upon a debate between Harry Potter fans about Hermione Granger’s race. The only line where J. K. Rowling references Hermione’s skin color is, “They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him.” Regardless, she is depicted as white on the cover of Harry Potter books and in the movies. This leads me to believe that ambiguous race characters are damaging because they are presumed to be white by society, despite what young children may or may not conclude.
Side note: If Hermione was described as any race other than white, perhaps this could have been avoided: