Harry Potter and Racism
I'm watching Harry Potter, again. For the millionth time. Or more.
For the third time in less than a year, I've got strep throat and a sinus infection. My throat hurts. My ears hurt. My sinuses are so congested that I have temporarily turned into a mouth breather. I can't sleep at night, but somehow I manage to nap every day. It's been quite a few days, and those aren't even the gross details. I'll spare you from those, both out of consideration for you and embarrassment for me.
Every time I'm sick, I watch Harry Potter. I think it started when I got my wisdom teeth out. That summer, I had started re-reading the series, and as soon as I got home from my surgery (which was an extremely unpleasant experience), all I asked for was Harry Potter. Over the next two days, while in and out of a pain-killer daze, I watched all seven movies back to back.
They're comforting to me. I don't have to pay close attention if I don't want to. I can pay attention to every detail and talk along with most of the movie if I want. I already know I love them, so there's no fear of disappointment. And like most people my age, I grew up with the stories of Harry, Ron and Hermione. So why not relive them when I've got nothing better to do but sit on the couch and drink smoothies and eat ice cream? (Because if strep throat isn't an excuse to do that - what else is?)
I think it's amazing how much the Harry Potter series echoes the issues of our society. There's a classic theme of discrimination and superiority based on blood, and I am certainly not the first person to point this out or realize it. The pure bloods (who have only wizards in their families) want to rid the world of muggle-born witches and wizards (those who are born from normal, non-magic families). This conflict continues to grow, eventually infiltrating the government and dividing the entire wizarding world, resulting in a catastrophic war.
In the books, there are all sorts of non-magic people going missing and being killed by Voldemort. If someone isn't at least a half-blood (with at least SOME pureblood lineage), they are deemed invaluable and are killed. I can't help but see similarities to those attacks and people of color being killed by police or the LGBTQ+ community being targeted in Orlando. I think it's quite easy to see how silly this type of hatred is in fiction, especially when it is based on something that a person cannot change. I think it's harder to recognize in the real world.
I think part of that is because a lot of times, racism isn't IN YOUR FACE if you're a white person. No one is yelling racial slurs at you. No one is telling you that you aren't valuable. White people are protected by the same privilege that protects the purebloods. Somehow, they (we) won the genetic lottery -- society sees us as valuable and worth keeping. We are safe.
It's not like that for people of color. Racism is not subtle. Racism is not something they can choose to care about when its convenient. It is an everyday reality. And if we are rooting for Harry Potter and for Hermione Granger and the defeat of Voldemort and his oppressive regime, then why aren't we doing something to ACTUALLY dismantle a REAL oppressive regime in our own world? What excuses are we going to give to continue hiding in our privilege, to remain silent, to allow hatred to run rampant? If we are against discrimination of fictional characters, if we care about the well-being of characters that do not exist, we should care much much more for those humans who DO exist and live this reality every day. And we should do something about it.