The Invisibility of the White Race

It was recently announced that Noma Dumezweni would be playing the role of Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play based on the Harry Potter series. The play is about Harry, Ron and Hermione, all grown up with kids and jobs and such, 19 years after the death of Voldemort. While most were excited at the news, for some reason, some people were really upset that Hermione was to be played by a black actress instead of a white one. People complained that the producers were “changing the script” to appease minorities, and shouldn’t be doing so at the expense of the integrity of the novel(s).

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In the books, J.K.Rowling describes an extremely intelligent girl with brown eyes and bushy hair, and though she makes no mention of skin color and/or race, this girl is pictured as white by most, if not all, people who’ve read the book. This is another instance where whiteness is considered to be the norm, and everything else, the deviation. To the people who were bothered by this casting decision, the absence of a racial marker in the description of Granger’s character implied Granger was white.

Here is what Rowling, who wrote the books and some of the play, had to say on the matter:

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Growing up, I used to be (and still am) a huge Harry Potter fan, and after reading about the casting, I realized that I too had always imagined Hermione as white. This is one of the reasons Dumezweni’s casting is so important – not only would it afford young black girls everywhere a role model they feel they can relate to, but it also brings to light the stark reality of the supposition of whiteness, even in situations seemingly unrelated to race.

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One thought on “The Invisibility of the White Race

  1. I really appreciate this post. I too imagined Hermione as a white girl, although I didn’t start reading the Harry Potter books until after the movies had come out so I am sure that had an influence. Your point hits the nail on the head, though. Black and brown kids watching shows, movies, commercials and looking at magazines, games, and books can rarely spot characters who look like them, and it takes an emotional and psychological toll. It can make a little kid feel like being brown is somehow incorrect, inferior, and/or unattractive. The casting of Noma Dumezweni is a fabulous reminder for us to not assume a character is white unless otherwise specified. Being white is no more normal or acceptable or desirable, and by increasing the representation of people of color in the media, we can hopefully convince young people of color of this message.

    Like

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